Solar-powered ship beats its own trans-Atlantic speed record
By Ben Coxworth
May 22, 2013
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.