A story I wrote this week for The New York Times highlights the fascinating path of Spaniard Javier “Bubi” Sanso in the current Vendee Globe. Bubi’s boat, sponsored by renewable energy company Acciona, is the first in the history of the race to eliminate the need for diesel fuel. In effect, and he is proving this now, the boat can go on indefinitely.

Imoca 60 Acciona 100% EcopoweredWhy did it take so long for what would be considered one of the “greenest” of sports to pull off the grid? The answer is simple, nobody had gotten to it yet. It is easy to stick with the known diesel generator to charge batteries and focus on developing their foils and sails. The designers at Owen Clarke Design designed Acciona 100% Ecopowered considering the renewable energy sources from the start with, for example, solar panels laid into the beveled rails on both sides of the hull.

Acciona marketing chief Pio Cabanillas put it like this, “It’s like throwing a newspaper on the street when you’re finished instead of looking for, or thinking where a trash bin would be. You just have to think about it.”

This is an exciting project and Bubi is a fascinating and excitable guy. He is not alone. I met with 70-something year-old Stanley Paris in Newport aboard is Farr-designed, Lyman Morse-built eco-powered boat Kiwi Spirit, while he was training in Newport this fall. He is headed to the Caribbean and will begin a solo-non-stop, unassisted circumnavigation of the globe, while not using a drop of diesel as Sanso is doing.

This is great to see and I hope it inspires us all to take a look at the different, though expensive now, ways of conserving and generating energy. For now, here are a few paragraphs from the Times piece that didn’t make the cut. Enjoy!

“Wind generators have been used since the Vendee Globe began in 1989 and solar panels soon followed. But wind generators work on apparent wind and are inefficient in the predominantly downwind conditions of the Southern Ocean. Solar panels also take up valuable deck space and there must be enough to capture the sun from a proper angle.”

“Today only three of the 20 starters are using wind generators and six are using solar panels.”

“Sanso’s boat is one of the newest in the fleet, designed by British naval architects Owen and Clarke Yacht Design. It is the 15 batteries, weighing a total of 1,700 pounds, which have slowed the potential of Acciona. The other boats started the race with a power generation system 500 pounds lighter than Sanso’s and will be lighter as they use their engines to charge batteries.”

“The fact that renewable energy sources are “in vogue,” has Cabanillas hoping people will be inspired by this project to look at a new way of doing things. “There is no doubt that all of this can be a solution for a house in the middle of the mountains,” he said referring to the idea of creating residential energy independence.”

“According to Cabanillas and Sanso, the boat has worked flawlessly so far. “I haven’t had to make many adjustments. It’s self-sufficient,” said Sanso. “It’s pretty scary, it just works. I have software to monitor temperature and charges, not much else.””

“It is not unusual, according to Horeau, for skippers to finish starving for fuel and food. Armel Le Cleac’h, who has been vying for the lead since the Equator, finished the last Vendee Globe emaciated, after five days without food. In 2004, Jean Pierre Dick arrived back in Les Sables d’Olonne rationing water from his rescue supplies.”

“Seven boats have retired from the race so far, getting close to the statistic that shows about only half the fleet finishes each race. Sanso retired from the 2000-2001 race. For Stamm and Thomson who both dropped out of the 2008-2009 Vendee Globe, relying so heavily on diesel may be their undoing.”

And a Note from Patrick Boutonnet this week:

Hi Chris,


Thank you very much for this interesting article published on the New York Times. Good progress are being made in this field of sailing green.


We can also remember that Francis Joyon has been at the forefront of eco-power by sailing solo, non-stop around the world in 57 days in 2008 without a drop a fossil fuel, he actually did not have any engine. On IDEC2 he has a wind turbine, 10 solar panels and a fuel cell for backup.