The Turanor PlanetSolar, the world’s largest solar boat and the first solar boat to attempt an around-the-world journey, made it through rough seas, churned by the periphery of Typhoon Muifa, and docked in Hong Kong on Monday.
It took the PlanetSolar crew six days to navigate through monsoons and tropical storms in a ship powered only with solar photovoltaic panels from the Philippines to Hong Kong.
PlanetSolar is the first solar-powered vehicle ever to cross the South China Sea, said project founder Raphael Domjan.
He said he was "impressed by the talent of the PlanetSolar Skipper, Erwann Rouzic, who managed to make the right decisions at the right time."
Weather is a formidable force in all sea journeys. But when a crew depends on the sun for power, long stretches of oppressive weather, like that the PlanetSolar experienced in the South China Sea, can be serious issue.
Rouzic joined the PlanetSolar crew later in the journey and has offered Captain Patrick Marchesseau some relief.
Marchessau wrote in an e-mail that there are unique challenges involved in navigating a solar boat through vast waters.
“The difference between the solar ship Turanor PlanetSolar and a regular motor vessel is in the energy management, of course,” Marchesseau wrote. “With a motor vessel you know how many nautical miles you can sail through according to your bunker capacity. With a solar boat like Turanor PlanetSolar, we have approximately up to three days of energy available from our batteries. So we have to adapt our consumption, which means our speed, according to the weather, in order to always maintain a minimum level of energy for safety reason.”
While energy management, especially when navigating through long and aggressive storms, is different from navigating a typical boat, Marchesseau said he knew when he set out that it could be done.
“Of course, the whole handling on board is a task in terms of energy management,” he wrote. “Yet, since we have expected the project to be a real expedition right from the beginning , we do not speak about ‘unexpected challenges.’”
Domjan initiated this project because he wanted to show the world that existing solar technology is advanced enough to do extraordinary things and that we need to embrace it.
He said in a statement that he has high hopes for making a big impact in Asia.
Image courtesy of PlanetSolar.