OCEAN POLLUTION Solar-powered catamaran sets off on five-year voyage

The boat has 540 square metres worth of solar panels and a hydrogen energy system that quadruples its efficiency


The Swiss-led catamaran expedition “Race for Water Odyssey” set off from the Lorient port in northwestern France on Sunday on a five-year voyage to raise awareness about the level of plastic pollution in oceans. 

The energy self-sufficient solar-powered boat, which also has a hydrogen energy system in place, set off on its long journey a little after 15:00. Around 250 people bid the catamaran and its crew farewell. The five-year trip will involve raising awareness of plastic pollution in oceans among local affected populations. The crew will also undertake scientific research projects, starting with the impact of microplastics on marine ecosystems, and promote the use of innovation and technology in tackling the pollution. Between 5 and 12 million tonnes of plastic waste finds its way into the oceans each year, according to Greenpeace. 

The “Race for Water” catamaran is an evolution of the PlanetSolar vessel, which in 2012 completed the first ever global circumnavigation powered by solar energy. Gifted to the Race for Water Foundation in 2015, the 35-metre long boat has continued to develop in self-sufficiency, adding hydro energy to its solar base. A 40 square meter kite sail has also been installed, which represents the same energy gains as a regular sea sail of 500 square meters. 

Following the launch from Lorient, “Race for Water” will make a series of stops on its trip around the world, including in Bermuda (for this year’s Americas Cup), Tokyo (for the 2020 Olympic Games) and Dubai (for Expo 2020). 

Bertrand Piccard, the man behind the Swiss solar aircraft Solar Impulse that circumnavigated the globe in July 2016, sent his best wishes to the expedition.