Fuel change breakthrough: biodiesel-powered speedboat Earthrace, around world in 60 days, beats record set in 1998 by 14 days
Team Earthrace, led by New Zealand Skipper Pete Bethune, has smashed the world circumnavigation record for a speedboat by almost 14 days. Almost five years of preparation, planning and two record attempts have paid off leaving the bio-diesel powered Earthrace team to claim the round the world speedboat record.
Possibly the coolest powerboat on the planet, the space age, wave piercing trimaran Earthrace took bio-fuel into history as the 78 foot, (24 metre) boat crossed the 'Round the World' finish line in Sagunto, Spain. In just 60 days Earthrace has powered almost 24,000 nautical miles around the world. Earthrace left Spain on Sunday April 27th at 14:35 local time (1325 GMT) and headed west on the long voyage around the world. The previous record for a powerboat to circumnavigate the globe was 74 days 20 hours 58 minutes 30 seconds, set by the UK boat ‘Cable & Wireless Adventurer’ in 1998.
Flying both the New Zealand and Spanish flags Earthrace thundered across the finish line, powered by her twin 540 horse powered Cummins-Mercruiser engines, in front of a large spectator fleet and awaiting media at 14.24 CET (13.24 GMT). The finish in Spain by Earthrace was monitored by D. Jaime Pérez López, Presidente de la Federación Territorial Motonaútica de la Comunidad Valenciana.The new record is 13 days, 21 hours and 9 minutes inside the old one.
For the visionary skipper behind the Earthrace campaigns the last sixty days is just one step in a journey that has, so far, taken five years. In 2003 living in Sydney Australia, Aucklander Pete Bethune was working on his MBA when he wrote a 20,000 word paper on the use of renewable energy for road transport. Convinced by his research, he set out to prove that sustainable bio-fuels were a practical step in the replacement of hydrocarbon fuels.
‘Sustainability is the key. We cannot cut down rainforests to plant palm trees for palm oil that is not renewable at all. We will need new technology and ideas, such as using marine algae to convert the suns energy into bio-fuel, while making sure we use animal fats more efficiently. We need to grow plants like Jatropha in marginal agricultural areas, where they can be used for animal fodder, as well as having bio-fuel value.’
The determination and grit of the Earthrace team is ultimately what led to the taking of the round the world speedboat record. Skipper Pete Bethune was unwilling to hear the words 'delay' or 'precaution'. Bethune's tenacity to take the record infected the crew with a scene of 'must do, can do, and will do.’ It is this determination that drove the ground team to sleep two out of every twenty-four hours and remain focused during the delays, and lack of resources. Determination is direction to a point. In this case the point was completing the world's longest race. But was that the 'point' of Earthrace? Simply taking a record. A name, typed in small print, on page 74 of a yearly publication.
I have to ask myself what is the point? My wife and I donated almost a year of our life to the last race attempt and have steadily consulted through this attempt. We are just two of the many team members. Why the commitment of time and energy by such a wide array of marine technicians from around the world? What is the point?
The point is change. The Earthrace boat grabs one's attention, and the crew are treated as B grade celebrities. Being a minor grade celebrity has the advantage that people around the world are willing to listen to what we have to say, if only for a minute. Allow me to present a few examples.
Last year when Earthrace arrived in one Pacific island, we found a ship exporting 240 tons of coconut oil while a small tanker sat at the dock offloading fuel. In our couple of minutes of 'B grade' celebrity status the team was able to meet with the coconut exporter and ask 'Why not change that coconut oil into diesel fuel and sell it on the island?' This year when Earthrace returned that same island was using locally grown coconuts to power vehicles. A small change, but one that would not have happened if the Earthrace team had not been given the right ear, if only for a minute.
On another island an official explained how they were considering a new electrical generation plant. In our two minutes of fame the team was able to quote the advantages of wind, solar and minimizing consumption. We heard later that a wind plant was in the consideration phase. One Earthrace engineer was able to use his 'two minutes of fame' to make a presentation on a Caribbean island. That presentation has brought three businesses together who are preparing to collect forty thousand gallons a month of used deep fry oil to process into bio-diesel.
To me that was always the point of Earthrace - the ability to effect change. The ability to take a small stand to prevent forty thousand gallons of month of toxic waste from entering a land fill in exchange for producing forty thousand gallons a month more income to an island nation.
Positive change is not often seen on today's new reports. This is change that may not have happened if Skipper Pete Bethune had not laid his future on the line to build the first link of a chain that ends in a web of small events adding up to a slightly better world. This is the real long-term record that can be claimed by the team - the claim to a better future! Congratulations to the Earthrace team and its sponsors.
Photos courtesy of David Perez, Jim Burkett, Caroline Gautron1, and Earthrace Media
Official Site: Earthrace
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