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Earthrace Saga

Earthrace is a B100-powered 78-foot trimaran with carbon fiber and Kevlar laminates and engine air intakes atop her “wings” to facilitate breathing in the wave-piercing mode. Below: Earthrace’s proposed around-the-world route.

New Zealander Peter Bethune, a one-time oil-exploration engineer now solidly into 100-percent biodiesel-powered propulsion, is betting he can break the world record for circumnavigating the globe in a powerboat. He figures Earthrace, his wave-piercing trimaran, can do the job and then some, thanks to a set of off-the-shelf 540-hp Cummins MerCruiser QSC8.3-540 diesels, a super-slippery running surface, and a 2,500-gallon fuel capacity that should provide a range of 3,000 nautical miles.

At presstime Bethune had just arrived with Earthrace on the West Coast, having crossed the Pacific from Hawaii in seven days (at cruise speeds of 15 to 20 knots) using B100. When we caught up with him in Vancouver, British Columbia, he told us the trip had gone slicker than soybean oil. “We had to work out a few issues with the steering system and the ballast tanks, but...except for the wake-boarding we did in the midst of the Pacific, the trip was quite uneventful.

After touring ports around the world, including Miami for the 2007 Miami International Boat Show, touting the virtues of biodiesel and Earthrace, Bethune and his crew will make their record-breaking attempt next spring.

Bethune’s an interesting guy. During his years as an oil-exploration engineer in the North Sea and later along the coast of North Africa, he told PMY, it was common knowledge that the world’s oil reserves would dry up in approximately 50 years and natural gas ones in approximately 75. “Such numbers didn’t sit that easy with me at the time,” he added, “and they still don’t.”

His interest in alternative fuels began to grow soon after he left the oil business, mostly thanks to alternative fuels research he undertook while he was enrolled in an MBA program in Sydney, Australia. Toss in weekends and holidays spent boating, fishing, and diving along the coast of Australia, and you begin to get the point of the Earthrace project. Bethune’s on a mission: to break the around-the-world speed record set by Cable & Wireless in 1998 and, in the process, help save the planet.

This article originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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