Solar-powered catamaran completes record-setting circumnavigation

Turanor PlanetSolar, a futuristic-looking 100-foot catamaran, on Friday became the first vessel to have circumnavigated the planet exclusively on power generated by the sun. The voyage, which began and ended in Monaco, lasted 19-plus months and included layovers in 28 countries, which were designed to promote the importance of solar energy.

Turanor PlanetSolar pulls into Monaco to become first solar-powered vessel to circumnavigate the planet.

Traveling on an equatorial route to take advantage of abundant sunshine, Turanor PlanetSolar covered more than 37,000 miles and set multiple Guinness World Records. The five-man crew enjoyed stops in such destinations as Tangier, Miami, Cancun, the Galapagos Islands, French Polynesia, Brisbane, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bombay, Abu Dhabi and Doha.

After disembarking in Monaco, expedition leader Raphael Domjan told well-wishers: “We are extremely happy to have achieved this first world tour with solar energy. We have shown that we have the technologies as well as the knowledge to become sustainable and safeguard our blue planet.”

Immo Stroeher, a German solar energy pioneer and the chief investor in the PlanetSolar project, described the vessel as an ambassador of solar energy and added: “The arrival in Monaco is only the start. We now have to take advantage of the fame of PlanetSolar in order to promote the use of solar energy.”

Records include: Longest journey by a solar-powered boat (31,484 miles; not including side trips made by Turanor PlanetSolar); first circumnavigation by a solar-powered boat; fastest crossing of South China Sea by solar power; fastest crossing of the Atlantic by solar power; and largest solar-powered boat.

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PlanetSolar’s crew consisted of Switzerland’s Domjan, an ambulance driver and high-mountain rescue guide; French captains Erwann Le Rouzic and Patrick Marchesseau; German Bosun Jens Langwasser, and Swiss energy-management specialist Christian Ochsenbein.

For these adventurers, the culmination of such a long adventure — which began on Sept. 27, 2010 — enables reunions with families and friends. But the memories of this incredible odyssey will not soon be forgotten.

The name Turanor is from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” and means “power of the sun.” On warm nights the crew slept beneath stars atop the vessel’s solar panels.

The boat, which was built in Germany for about $10 million, is 25 feet high and has a 50-foot beam (width), and wave-piercing pontoons. It’s constructed largely of lightweight carbon fiber and powered by four electric motors that deliver silent, clean propulsion.

It became clear that the project might succeed last spring as the vessel crossing the Pacific, when it eclipsed the solar-vehicle record of 9,639 miles, accomplished in 2004 by the Midnight Sun Solar Race Car Team on its tour across North America.

At the time the crew had exhausted its supply of bread, fruit and fresh vegetables, and Domjan blogged about plans for a fresh fish dinner, which did not turn out as hoped.

“It seems that two tuna have been following us the last days,” he wrote. “Patrick, having caught nothing since we arrived in the Pacific and full of hope, puts the bait right under their nose. But these two magnificent fish are not silly and prefer to continue hunting the flying fish all around us.”

— Images are courtesy of Turanor PlanetSolar

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