Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Earthrace" - 'Round the World Record!

Introduction by William L. Gills aka Bos'n Bill

Have you heard of the racing power boat Earthrace built in Auckland, New Zealand?  The one that smashed the 1998 world speed record of circumnavigating the globe.  The 24,000 nm voyage was completed in a mere 60 days, besting the 1998 record by a whopping 14 days! It took Magellan's ship, Victoria, 3 years in 1522.  We've come along way since then.

Part boat/part submarine, Earthrace is a hi-tech space age boat made principally of carbon and Kevlar to make the hull resilient and lightweight.  The design is long and sleek with a sharp wave piercing bow that doesn't go over waves, it goes through them, keeping the boat relatively level in rough seas.  The two stabilizers/outriggers port and starboard keep the boat steady as she goes.

Built by Peter Bethune, Earthrace runs on 100% bio-diesel fuel made of animal and plant oils, a test of alternative energy and a cause for clean burning fuels.  The vessel uses two QSC-540 diesel engines producing a combined power output of 1080 horsepower.   

I have two videos on this remarkable vessel Earthrace, it's builder, captain and crew.  The first is a tour of the boat by Peter Bethune himself and the second, a trailer of the actual trip up to the point of their first major setback.  From there, I have the rest of the story in the summarized words of the builder himself. 

First, the Introduction and Tour of Earthrace

Next, The Race:

The Rest of the Story.
I give you an abridged summary of Peter Bethune's account of the remainder of the trip, beginning with the setback that occurred in the trailer.

"After we left Palau we hit something in the water causing a huge amount of damage, a bent drive shaft, damaged rudder, bent prop, damaged bow.  There was no way to get anything fixed in Palau so we thought the trip was over, running on one engine all the way to Singapore.  In Singapore, the boat yard assessed the damage predicting it would take at least three weeks to repair.  We were done, for sure.  It would place us at least a week behind the 1998 worlds record.  Then, something miraculous happened.  Everything started to go our way after the job was done in just three days.  Good omen.  We still had a chance! 

It was easy going in the second half of the race until we got caught in a monsoon between Singapore and India that continued eight long, agonizing days until we arrived in Yemen.  We took a beating, but then had a good run to the Suez Canal where we were held up overnight half way through the canal. From there it was a clear run back to Barbados."

There's more.  Turns out Earthrace did set the new world speed record for a powerboat.  The captain and crew started the race around the world in Barbados and finished in Barbados,  June 27, 2008, 60 days, 23 hours and 49 minutes after they set out.  A truly incredible feat for an ocean going vessel!

Relieved the race was finally over and that Earthrace's goal of attaining a new world record had been achieved in a boat powered exclusively by bio-fuels, Peter Bethune confessed in New Zealandese, "I feel like I've goh a monkey off me back!" I think Poseidon should allow him to possess his trident for a spell, don't you ?

William L. Gills aka Bos'n Bill is the author of the book, Lubber's Log published by Llumina Press; a boating primer and adventure story about a couples experiences in moving up to a bigger boat.  

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