Solar-powered ship beats its own trans-Atlantic speed record


May 22, 2013

The Turanor PlanetSolar arrives at the town of Marigot on the island of St. Martin

The Turanor PlanetSolar arrives at the town of Marigot on the island of St. Martin

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With its previous circumnavigation of the planet, it had already set the record for longest distance traveled by a purely solar-powered boat. Now, the Tûranor PlanetSolar (which is also the world’s largest solar-powered watercraft), has broken its own 2010 record for fastest Atlantic crossing by a solar-powered boat.

As part of a scientific expedition that began last month, the catamaran set out from Las Palmas, Spain on April 25th. It proceeded to spend  22 days, 12 hours, and 32 minutes traveling 2,867 miles (5,310 km) across the Atlantic Ocean, before reaching the island of St. Martin in the French West Indies on May 18th.

With its two electric motors receiving power from 537 square meters (5,780 sq ft) of photovoltaic panels, the 31-meter (102-ft) long, 15-meter (49-ft) wide ship maintained an average cruising speed of 5.3 knots – although it’s capable of going as fast as 14 knots. The crew didn’t simply take the shortest route between the start and finish, but instead had to optimize their course to avoid unfavorable winds and swells. Doing so increased the traveling distance by a reported 7 percent.

Nonetheless, the Tûranor PlanetSolar still managed to beat its 2010 record set between the same two locations by 4 days, 6 hours, and 38 minutes. “It is difficult to compare the two crossings because they were conducted at very different times of the year,” said Captain Gérard d’Aboville. “But it is certain that in light of the lessons learned during the trip around the world, the major maintenance projects carried out last winter – particularly to the propulsion system – have greatly improved the ship’s performance.”

The catamaran will now continue on to Miami, to take part in a study of the Gulf Stream current.

Source: PlanetSolar via Inhabitat

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

IMO; that is not only way cool but also very green.


I never will understand this stupidity. Nothing cool about it. The fastest crossing of the Atlantic by a sailboat was in 3 days, 15 hours and 25 minutes. Average speed 32,94 knots. Green ? dispose of solar cells. So what we are talking about ?


Bernd Kohler

22 days doesn't seem very fast. A wooden schooner did it in 12 days, more than 100 years ago, and as Bernd mentions, the sailing record is now below 4 days.

The place of a solar panel on a green boat is for keeping your computer running. It's a silly prime mover when you have the wind at your disposal.

Ashley Zinyk

And when there is no wind?


A 22 day trans Atlantic crossing --- a step back in time. I would add one of those big forward mounted masts with a retractable sail like what is now being used on some mega ocean freighters. If those big pulling sails work to save fuel on big ships, it should aid in boosting top speed for the Tûranor PlanetSolar.

Richard Dicky Riddlebarger

re; bf_308

Auxiliary power or wait just like if there is no sunlight.

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