Having used precisely zero litres of fuel and created zero carbon emissions, PlanetSolar’s “Tûranor” completed her record-breaking (and making) round-the-world trip in May this year. A journey of 37,000 nautical miles crossing three oceans and 11 seas, the Swiss-flagged vessel harnessed solar energy to power her feat thus proving irrefutably that man has the knowledge and technology to no longer rely on fossil fuels.
For Tûranor the circumnavigation may be complete but the journey continues in her “second life”. She is now a floating ambassador for photovoltaic energy and spreading the word via press conferences and educational programmes across the Mediterranean. We exclusively caught up with Tûranor’s Captain, Eric Dumont, during their Mallorca stopover in June.
North African-born Eric was raised in Brittany by his grandfather and uncle who were both ship Captains and professional divers. A Pisces, he fell in love with the water and it was a given that the sea would also become his job. His CV makes for impressive reading having taken part in a catalogue of races including finishing fourth in the Vendée Globe against Ellen MacArthur where he spent four months alone on the sea on a sailing boat with no engine. In total Eric has crossed the Atlantic 50 times, travelled three times around the world and covered in the region of 500,000 nautical miles – a very busy life at sea.
When asked how PlanetSolar’s Tûranor compares to conventional sailing, Eric commented, “It is my dream to be a captain on boats, since I was very young. On a racing boat I go fast and on this boat I go slowly. My dream is my life and I am happy to be on the sea. On this boat it is nice to be quiet, to be with the dolphins, whales, and the turtles. I am really very happy to be on this boat, it’s a different way to be on the sea”.
Tûranor’s journey took a total of 585 days, leaving Monaco on 27 September 2010 and not returning until 4 May 2012. Rather longer than the initial estimate of 160 days. So how did Eric cope? “It was a very good experience, it was also a human experience because we were five people on board and we changed with a German guy, Switzerland guy, French guy. We also met so many people from the islands, who were very poor, from Indonesia, from Australia also, so it was nice to be in parts of the world where they never see a boat like this, an incredible boat. The worst was when it was raining four days, five days nonstop and sometimes we had to be hidden behind an island and be on the anchor for eight days because there was too much bad weather. We had to stop. That is the reason it takes 19 months.”
When asked if he thought this was the future for sailing and for the environment, Eric said, “I think there are more and more electrical boats. In the boat show in Paris there were electrical boats and the racing boats now have no diesel on board, no engine. It could be in 20 years there’s maybe a petrol crisis, so it could be the boat for the future.”
Tûranor was inspired in 2004 by a 32-year-old Swiss engineer, ambulance pilot, glider and mountaineer named Raphaël Domjan – a man passionate about nature and clean energy and dreaming of an extraordinary boat for an extraordinary adventure. His dream took shape after meeting a German businessman in 2008, Immo Ströher, a man with extensive experience in solar technology. Combining ideas, energy and gathering sponsorship, Tûranor was then constructed in Kiel, Germany, across a period of 14 months and at an estimated cost of £16mn.
The 35 metre long and 23 metre wide catamaran is the largest solar powered boat ever built. Her name is borrowed from the fictitious language used in Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings and means “Power of the Sun” – something she is well geared up for with 537m² of photovoltaic surface exposed to the rays. During her circumnavigation Tûranor’s average cruising speed was five knots and, after crossing the Atlantic Ocean, she passed through the Panama Canal, Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea before returning to Monaco.
To find out more about Tûranor and the Solar Planet Foundation – visit www.planetsolar.org