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Last Updated: Friday, 30 March 2007, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
Solar boat makes Atlantic history
The catamaran's power comes from a roof of solar panels

A five-strong Swiss crew have sailed into history by completing the first solar-powered transatlantic crossing.

The Sun21 catamaran arrived in Miami late on Thursday, 117 days after leaving Seville in southern Spain.

The crew of four academics and one full-time sailor said they were trying to promote the "great potential" of solar power to combat climate change.

A similar-sized boat would have used about 72 litres of diesel every 24 hours on the same voyage.

After reaching Miami, crew member Dr Martin Vosseler told the BBC it was a thrilling experience.

"The crossing itself, from Las Palmas to Martinique - 29 days of not seeing any land - that was fantastic. We had very much luck - no storms.

"This trip is like a galaxy and the stars - all these encounters with very welcoming, hospitable people and all the natural miracles we encountered. So I feel very well."

'Energy of the future'

The 14m- (46ft) long vessel, built by a Swiss firm and registered in Basel, can maintain a constant speed of 10kmh.

Crew of the Sun21
The crew were retracing Christopher Columbus's voyage

During the day, the 48 solar panels on its roof gather energy from the sun. The power is stored in batteries, which allow it to sail through the night.

Dr Vosseler said he was "astonished" that there were not more solar-powered boats.

The crew of the Sun21 retraced the path Christopher Columbus took on his historic voyage to the New World more than 500 years ago.

Daniel Weiner, the group's spokesman, said they were trying to change people's thinking on renewable energy.

"Just as Columbus changed the mindshift [mindset] of his time [by showing] that the Earth was round and not flat, we want to show that the energy future looks different than the past."

The boat will now sail up the east coast of the US, from Miami to New York, where it will stay on display for several weeks before eventually returning to Spain.

Rowing pair finish Atlantic trip
22 Feb 07 |  Wiltshire

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