Will Luxury Solar Yachts Sail Close to Phoenix?

When we think of motoring culture in the Phoenix Valley area, boating may not be the first thing that pops into the mind.  The fact is though that while Phoenix is landlocked by hundreds of miles in all directions, the Phoenix Valley area actually has one of the most robust water sports and boating industries in the country.  Whether its boating and fishing in Tempe Town Lake, Lake Pleasant, or any of the lakes along the Apache Trail, or water skiing, swimming, or tubing in any of the popular waterways around town, Phoenix Valley residents like to get outside, appreciate the warmth, and seek an escape from the heat by getting around, and in, water.

Sailing is also surprisingly popular in the Phoenix Valley area, with a popular club at ASU and a number independant organizations.  With both the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean within a half day’s drive, more than a few Phoenix Valley open sea lovers have their yacht’s docked in San Diego or various ports in Mexico.  While we generally associate the yacht with sailing, a new form of nature powered luxury cruising is about to hit the market.  Solar Sailing.

The solar powered luxury vessel Turanor set off on a round the world voyage in April of 2010 with the purpose of proving that solar power, when harnessed and utilized efficiently, is a viable option for both commercial and pleasure watercraft.  It is nearly two years later, and their journey is nearly complete, and so far a 100% success.

While the team draws its motivation from science and societal needs, it also looks to the prophet of adventure to be found in the world of fiction.

“We want to be the Phileas Fogg of the 21st century,” said 38-year old Domjan, the project’s pioneer. “But beyond Jules Verne’s dream, our project is meant to serve the environment and to enable solar energy to replace fossil fuels, and to motivate engineers and scientists to develop these technologies,” he said. Appropriately, one of the patron’s of the project is Jean Verne, the great-grandson of the French author of Around the World in Eighty Days.

Sailing, whether it be down the Baja coast or a trip across the Pacific, is about navigation.  Before solar sailing navigation was entirely about the fastest route from point A to point B, with some avoidance of heavy storms.  Now a ships crew have to take account of a much larger meteorological picture, chasing the face of the sun at every turn of the wheel.

“The mission of the skippers will be to chase the sun,” said Dany Faigaux (a member of PlanetSolar, the Swiss team behind the ambitious project) when the craft launched. “Up until now, sailing navigation has involved working with the three parameters of the waves, wind and tide. But we’ve added two new dimensions – namely, sunlight and the lithium ion battery. It’s a completely new form of energy management.”

While Phoenix Valley boating enthusiasts should not expect a high performance luxury solar yacht anytime soon, the Turanor project offers an exciting and promising glimpse of things to come.

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