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save the planet. well, at least the race

The Vendee Globe makes the NY Times, in an eco-friendly kinda way…

Bernard Moitessier of France surprised the sailing world by peeling away from the first solo, nonstop, around-the-world race when he was on the cusp of finishing in 1969. He said in his reports to passing ships that he had found enlightenment on the high seas. He continued to go two-thirds of the way around the globe before landing in the South Pacific because he could.

This week, in the same storm-tossed Southern Ocean that Moitessier attacked twice, the British sailor Alex Thomson is struggling to conserve diesel fuel while competing in theVendée Globe, the offspring of that first race in 1969, then called theGolden Globe Race.

Diesel is the lifeblood of Thomson’s Imoca 60 racing yacht. All the electrical systems on the boat are run off a battery, which is charged by the diesel engine on board once or twice a day. Without energy produced by the boat’s diesel engine and two hydro generators, the autopilot and essential navigation systems would be lost. After losing one of the hydro generators that trail from the back of the boat in November, he is at risk of running out of fuel and abandoning the race.

Thomson may be pining for the days of Moitessier, when slower, simpler boats were steered by a wind vane, but there is only one boat today that can match Moitessier’s bold move by continuing on, seemingly indefinitely: Acciona 100% EcoPowered. It took three years of intense trial and error, but Javier Sanso’s eco-powered, 60-foot racing yacht in the Vendée Globe has been fully charged since the start of the race in Les Sables-d’Olonne, France, in November. And he is poised to make gains on the eight skippers in the front pack based on that fact alone. Read on.