INTERVIEW. Four friends around the world with a zero-emissions sailboat/Part 1
THE ROUND-THE-WORLD TOUR ON A ZERO-EMISSION SAILBOAT! Four friends decided to combine our passions for the sea, the adventure and the ecology. The goal of their project is to prove that a technically complex project around the world is achievable with eco-responsible practices. We met them!
First of all, please tell to our readers who are you?
Hello sea lovers! We are four French friends – Bérenger, François, Martin and Pierre – and our adventure is called the Eco Sailing Project. We transformed Amasia, a 1978 sailboat, into an energy self-sufficient yacht, able to travel around the world without using a drop of fuel.
We left Brittany (France) in late October 2014 for the first circumnavigation on a sailboat with electric propulsion, working entirely thanks to renewable energy! Thus we’ve been on this trip for a year now and we expect to be back in France in six months.
Why did you begin this adventure?
While we were still students in business and engineering schools, we had been talking for a long time about what we wanted to do after graduating, and we all had the same simple aspiration: to travel the world.
Therefore, in 2012, one year before the end of our studies, Martin told us about his childhood dream: a round-the-world sailing tour! If two of us had never sailed we quickly all agreed on this amazing voyage, as it was a way to bring together our common passions: an environmental friendly and sporty approach of travel! Many young people fancy doing a long journey but they don’t take the plunge, and we knew that if we started our professional careers straight away, we might not find the time to do it later.
But we wanted to do more than a basic adventure between friends, and as we are all passionate about nature and its protection we searched what had never been done in the domain of eco-sailing trips. That is when the idea came up: a boat with electric engine to circumnavigate the globe using only solar, wind and water energy! Let’s try!
Your sailboat is completely “eco”: how did you do it?
First, we removed all the fuel devices: the 50 hp engine, the exhaust system, the diesel tank, the cooling system… And then worked on minimizing the onboard energy consumption (a manual anchor windlass, LEDs instead of bulbs, desalinator removed…) to be able to reduce our production needs.
To design the new propulsion system, our target was the Panama Canal, roughly 40 nautical miles long. If we had enough power and capacity to motor the canal, our propulsion system would be more than enough for most other projected activities. Everything was of course done with regard to functionality and weight distribution. Our best energy is still the wind!
As you can see in the schema, we combined two 10kW electric drive motors, specially made for yacht. In addition to pushing the ship, our motors can also be used as generators: the propeller charges the batteries as it spins naturally while being pulled through the water under sail.
We installed on the deck and the roof 8 flexible solar panels that you can walk one. They provide enough for powering all the onboard systems. For the motors we needed much more energy production, we thus designed a three-source system: 2 rigid solar panels, a windmill, and a hydro-generator (included in the propulsion system as explained).
Finally, two lithium battery packs give us the possibility to store a lot of green energy with limited size and weight.
To conclude, we have to say we used only industrialised products to transform our boat, thus currently available on the market, to prove to every boat owner that it’s now possible: you can sail without any drop of fuel!
How did you find the partners for your trip?
When looking back to 2012, the beginning of the project management was far from easy.
While two of us were spending their last school year in Parisian schools, one was studying in Taiwan, and the last one was studying in Japan… It took us six months to welcome our first technical partner, Naviwatt, a company specialised in electric boats that agreed to manage the energetic transformation work.
To speed things up and convince more companies we knew we had to make a significant personal contribution and buy a boat. One year before the departure, we gathered our economies and even got loans to reach around 1/3 of the project budget, and thus cover the purchase of a nice 1978 ketch and the first expenditure. However, despite the hard work, fundraising was still very difficult…
We understood it was key to win the support of famous individuals to give more credibility to the adventure! That’s why we fulfilled to get the support of our two official patrons: Raphaël Dinelli – a French sailor (4 Vendée-Globe + 1997 winner of the Jacques Vabre) also director of the Océan Vital Foundation, specialised in sustainable mobility – and Nicolas Hulot – the most famous French environmentalist who is currently in charge of the Paris COP21.
It helped a lot to attract media attention and at the same time it allowed us to convince various technical partners specialised in electric navigation. Some financial partners were also happy to support us, not forgetting the generosity of essential benefactors and many individual donors attracted by our commitment.
If we left having collected a large part of our budget, we are still looking for a bit of funds to complete our circumnavigation. Enthusiasts take note J!
To discover more about the Amasia trip around the world… discover here the second part of the interview!