This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

June 06, 2007

Biodiesel-Fueled Boat Abandons Circumnavigation Attempt

Photo of a futuristic bullet shaped boat with large outriggers docked near a third-world village.

Shown here in Cochin, India, the Earthrace boat reached Spain but will not continue its quest.
Credit: Lance Wordsworth/Earthrace

The biodiesel-fueled Earthrace powerboat has reached Malaga, Spain, but its crew has abandoned their attempt to circle the world in record time. The boat originally departed from the island of Barbados in the Caribbean Sea and suffered a tragic collision and multiple mechanical problems between there and San Diego, California. Continued logistical and mechanical challenges led the crew to call San Diego its new starting point in the quest to set a world record, but a 6-foot crack developed in the ship's hull while crossing the Mediterranean Sea, bringing the effort to a halt. The decision was likely for the best, since the boat would've been crossing the Atlantic during hurricane season. Instead, once the boat is repaired, the crew will embark on a European promotional tour, and may try at the record again next year. See the Earthrace press releases.

Attempting to run the powerboat on pure biodiesel added significant logistic difficulties for the crew. In most ports, the biodiesel had to be imported, requiring the cooperation of customs officials. In Koror, Palau, the crew was unable to import biodiesel and was forced to fuel with regular diesel fuel instead. In Cochin, India, after a long delay the biodiesel that arrived was substandard and had to be rejected. Again, the crew refueled the boat with diesel fuel.

"I think to myself the disadvantage Earthrace has in attempting the record using biodiesel," noted engineer Scott Fratcher in his blog. "We have to divert most of our resources to moving fuel around the planet rather than keeping the boat in top condition mechanically. We wait in port for special tanker trucks rather than pulling into port, straight to the fuel dock and away again. Of course, the support we have received from all involved is mainly because of our commitment to the biodiesel industry. I recognize that and thank all involved for their kind help ... " See Fratcher's blog on the Earthrace Web site.