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A Sun-Powered Transatlantic Crossing

Turanor creates a stir in Miami Beach

Many unusual stories have a South Florida connection, and locals can be pretty jaded. Still, when the 102’ x 50’ catamaran Turanor emerged out of the inlet into Miami Beach Marina on Thanksgiving weekend, it made an impression. A hovering R44 helicopter was the first sign something out of the ordinary was near. The all-solar cat may have arrived quietly, but it arrived surrounded by a small flotilla of Jet Skis. A well-coordinated PR campaign, lovely jazz band, ceviche and fair weather notwithstanding, Turanor gets the credit for bringing out the crowd. The strange-looking craft, seemingly sitting on water like a water bug, moved in silently. Atop its 5,700-sq-foot surface of solar panels stood the man whose dream it was to bring this project to fruition, PlanetSolar project founder Raphaël Domjan. Domjan; Captain Patrick Marchesseau (who had experience with pirates as skipper of Le Ponant;) Mikaela von Koskull, the sole female crewmember; Jens Langwasser; Christian Ochsenbein and Daniel Stahl surprised everyone by arriving earlier than anticipated, after a 5,550-nm, 61-day, 34-minute journey from Monaco to Miami (including stops in Las Palmas and St. Maarten). Hurricane Thomas forced the slow-moving craft to take a more southerly route but did not disrupt plans to reach Miami.  After a 72-hour layover, which included press events, the craft was headed for Mexico to attend the Cancun climate summit and then continue south.

The whole point of this project is to prove that renewable energies, such as solar energy are, in fact, reliable. Challenges, along the planned circumnavigation, are numerous. Strong wind and currents can slow the wave-piercing twin hulls to a slow crawl and drain the batteries storing the solar energy captured by the SunPower cells (manufactured in California) inside the sturdy German-made PV panels.

So, has the craft ever run out of juice so far? “No. It’s all about power management,” says Domjan, who rode a solar bike around Miami Beach during his visit. Domjan, a charismatic 21st century Phileas Phogg, convinced Immosolar’s owner Immo Stroher to join his quest. Stroher, whose business is energy management, invested $17.5 million to help build the Craig Loomes-designed catamaran in Kiel, Germany. Swiss watch manufacturer Candino, a major sponsor, is also helping the crew meets its mission to complete the first circumnavigation using solar power—sun and wind willing.

For more information and to follow the solar cat’s journey, visit planetsolar.org

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