Biodiesel-Powerboat Forced to Abandon World Record Attempt

“We gave it our best shot.” These were the words of Skipper Pete Bethune last week after the announcement was made that the crew of the biodiesel-powerboat, Earthrace, had been forced to abandon its attempt at breaking the world record of circumnavigating the globe.

Currently docked in Malaga, Spain, the Earthrace vessel and crew began the record attempt on April 7 from San Diego, California, and had to finish in San Diego on or before 21 June to break the record of 75 days—set by the British boat Cable & Wireless in 1998.

“The whole team is pretty devastated right now. We have all put so much time, money, and effort into this record attempt; it is pretty upsetting to have to abandon the race. We can all feel proud of what we have achieved with the limited resources we had, and we do take some heart from that,” said Bethune.

After a tragic collision with a Guatemalan fishing boat in March that resulted in the loss of one fisherman and left the boat in need of repair, Earthrace once again encountered difficulties during its crossing of the Mediterranean Sea. During this crossing the boat encountered a vicious storm on route from Port Said, Egypt, to Malaga, Spain.

This was the third severe weather system that Earthrace had endured in three weeks, the other two being a monsoon off the southern coast of India and 50 knot head winds encountered traveling up the Red Sea. It appears these severe conditions, collectively, had taken their toll on the Earthrace boat.

Prior to arriving in Malaga, the crew noticed the boat was taking on water in the forward section of the main hull. Upon investigation, a 2m crack was found in the floor of the hull.

While in Malaga the crew made an initial repair, and it was thought to be sufficient to finish the race; however, shortly after the boat left for the Canary Islands the crew concluded that the repair would not hold and so the decision was made to return to Malaga to undergo more substantive repairs.

Taking into account the time that it would take to properly repair the hull, the decision was made to abandon the race since Earthrace would no longer be able to break the record.

“The Earthrace project was created to promote the awareness and use of alternative fuels such as biodiesel. And whilst it is disappointing to miss out on the world record, we have certainly succeeded in our overall aim of promoting biodiesel, and we will continue to build on this success during our upcoming European promotional tour,” Bethune said.

However, the crew has not ruled out having another crack at the record sometime in the future, perhaps as early as March 2008.

“I have never seen a group of people work harder or sacrifice more for biodiesel. They brought biodiesel to far off corners of the world and got people educated and excited about the fuel every stop along the way,” said Meghan Murphy, a founding member and now acting president of Ithaca Biodiesel, a worker-owned biodiesel cooperative in Ithaca, New York.”They have accomplished something impressive and it wouldn’t surprise me if they took the record next year.”

The Earthrace Project is presently making plans to visit up to 40 European cities during an upcoming promotional tour covering the next 8 months. The purpose of the upcoming European promotional tour is to promote the awareness and use of alternative fuels such as biodiesel. During each stopover the public will have chance to meet the crew and step aboard the Earthrace vessel.

Bethune, believes that Earthrace has a great opportunity to nourish and grow the European biodiesel industry, as well as to advance biodiesel as a genuinely viable alternative to petroleum diesel.

“The vision of a world using fuel produced from sustainable sources is an idea whose time has come. By demonstrating the power, reliability and environmental safety of biodiesel, Earthrace is committed to transforming this vision into reality,” said Bethune.

Earthrace will likely begin its promotional tour later this month in Cork, Ireland. The crew will visit a mix of major port cities as well as small port towns including Cardiff, Wales; Plymouth and London, England; Edinburgh and Shetland Islands, Scotland; Brest, France; Bergen and Oslo, Norway; Lisbon, Portugal; Copenhagen, Denmark; Stockholm and Gothenburg, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; Rostock, Kiel and Hamburg, Germany; Amsterdam and Vlissingen, Netherlands; and Antwerp, Belgium.

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