Lonely Planet Writer

Solar-powered catamaran embarks on five-year world sea voyage to highlight plastic pollution

A solar-powered catamaran set sail from Lorient in Brittany, France this Sunday to embark on a five-year voyage around the world. The aim of the trip is to highlight the high levels of plastic pollution currently floating in the planet’s oceans. During the voyage, the entirely self-sufficient boat called Race for Water, will undertake several scientific investigations, including one which will measure the impact of microplastics on marine ecosystems.

Race For Water solar-powered catamaran.
Race For Water solar-powered catamaran. Image by VALERIE GACHE/Getty Images

The 35m-long vessel, which is fitted with 500m2 of solar panels, will sail to Bermuda for the 2017 Americas Cup, before heading to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic Games. The boat also has a high-altitude towing kite, which helps it reach a top speed of nine knots. After Japan it will make its way to Dubai for Expo 2020, aided by the 25 hydrogen storage tanks fitted on board by Swiss Hydrogen.

An earlier trip by the Race for Water team had found that a global clean-up of the world’s oceans was no longer a realistic goal, so the crew on this new boat will promote new ways of tackling the pollution problem using innovation and new technology. Greenpeace believes that between five and 12 million tonnes of plastic waste are added to the world’s oceans annually.

The catamaran has two on-board laboratories that will host different university research teams as the trip progresses. Area of particular scientific interest will include the Gulf of Mexico, the South China Sea, the Gulf of Oman and the Caribbean Sea.

Speaking about the voyage, the ship’s captain Gérard d’Aboville said: ‘I am delighted to contribute to a new scientific expedition in the service of the oceans. Setting out on this solar/hydrogen hybrid boat and getting it around safely is a nautical and technological challenge that I’m delighted to be taking part in. The enthusiasm that the catamaran generates at every stopover promises some fruitful exchanges between all those aware of the changes in the maritime world.’

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