Earthrace closes on Hawaii

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It’s been a rough first month at sea, but the bio-fuel boat Earthrace is still powering on, determined to break a world record, while promoting the use of alternative fuel.

"We’ve had some bad luck, but we are determined to finish the race and make the best out of a horrible situation," said John Allen, Operations Manager for Earthrace. "Giving up is not in our vocabulary."

The New Zealand-based vessel left Barbados March 10 in an attempt to set a new powerboat world record for circling the globe. The time to beat is Cable and Wireless’ 75 days.

Earthrace closes on Hawaii

But the most important aspect of the 24,000-mile journey is to promote the use of renewable fuels worldwide, said Allen. "The record attempt is merely a means to do that and also have a challenge and a lot of fun."

When the 78-ft-long trimaran began the trip, her four-man crew was confident the record would fall with ease. They had a state-of-the-art vessel and big name sponsors like Willie Nelson and Cummins MerCruiser. But after only a week at sea, trouble began.

First her carbon propellers delaminated on the way to Panama, slowing her down to 12 knots. After new propellers were fitted and two days were lost, Earthrace steered toward its next refueling stop, Acapulco.

Then on March 17 tragedy struck as Earthrace collided with a small fishing skiff off the coast of Guatemala. This left one fisherman missing, presumed drowned and another with serious internal injuries. The injured man was given an intravenous saline solution by a doctor who happened to be aboard Earthrace for a ride to Acapulco.

"I believe that if the doctor was not aboard Earthrace, the man would have died," said Allen.

Earthrace closes on Hawaii

The accident landed the crew in a Guatemalan military base under armed guard for 10 days, while an investigation began. On March 27, Earthrace and her crew were cleared of any wrongdoing and were allowed to leave.

The boat then cruised to Acapulco for refueling and on to San Diego, where she lost another five days with a gearbox problem.

It was here that the crew had a meeting and decided to keep going and that the record was still within reach.

"Given the time we lost in Guatemala, for us to finish in Barbados in record time will require a Herculean effort from boat and crew, but it is certainly within the realms of possibility," said Earthrace skipper Pete Bethune. "We owe it to ourselves and to our supporters to give it our best shot."

Allen said that if Earthrace can average about 500 nautical miles per day and everything goes "smoothly," she can make it back to Barbados in about 72 days.

Earthrace closes on Hawaii

Earthrace is scheduled to arrive in Hawaii tonight. After a four-hour pit stop, she will set a course for Majuro, then continue across the Pacific, stopping in Koror, Singapore, Maldives, Aden, Port Said, Malaga, Canary Islands and finally back to Barbados.

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