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Swiss boat ends first solar Atlantic crossing

The Swiss-made solar boat Sun21 has arrived in New York, the final destination of its sun-powered transatlantic journey, the first of its kind.

The catamaran reached New York on Wednesday after sailing 13,000 kilometres from Chipiona in Spain to the Caribbean island of Martinique and along the East Coast of the United States.

The team behind the feat, Transatlantic21, said the 14-metre boat produced 2,000-kilowatt hours of solar energy.

“This proves that in our modern society it is indeed possible to travel the world efficiently and still safeguard the environment,” the boat’s skipper, Michael Thonney, told swissinfo.

“The sun is the fuel of the future,” he said.

Solar energy powered the boat’s electric motors with surplus stored in batteries. This enabled the vessel to clock up a constant speed of 5-6 knots (10-12 km/h).

Swiss Consul General Christoph Bubb was among those to welcome the five-strong crew as they anchored in US waters.

Bubb added that the crew had set a new standard for using solar energy and were ambassadors for Swiss innovation.

Solar potential

Sun21 started its journey in Basel in October 2006 on the Rhine. Two months later it had left the European mainland behind. By February this year it had reached Martinique without experiencing any mishaps.

Team member Martin Vosseler told swissinfo that Transatlantic21 had succeeded in demonstrating the potential of solar power for sea crossings.

“We wanted to prove on a small scale what needed to be done globally if we want to turn back the tide of the threat of climate change,” Vosseler said.

But he added that one should not give in to fatalism – what was required was creative thinking and courageous actions to push through clean fuels.

“Nuclear energy is not the solution. We have an incredibly powerful power plant in the sun that can be used, which is at a safe distance from the Earth,” Vosseler explained.

The crew will be taking part in a number of events looking into energy issues in New York.

The Big Apple was chosen as Sun21’s final destination, not least because it is the seat of the United Nations but also because the US is the world’s biggest energy consumer.

swissinfo, based on an article in German by Rita Emch in New York

The world’s largest solar boat has been operating on Lake Biel since 2001 and has transported 24,000 passengers.

Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard is developing a solar-powered aircraft in a bid to fly around the world. Test flights are planned for 2008.

The team Swisspirit won the World Solar Challenge competition in Australia in 1990 and 1996. The crew, which has been constructing solar-powered cars for 20 years, is also planning to take part in the event next year.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR