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What a sunbather

Largest solar-powered boat arrives for brief tour of the island

When Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan sailed around the world in the 16th century, he left Spain with 280 men aboard five ships.

Only one ship and some 20 men would make it back. And while sailing techniques have evolved considerably, taking to the high seas remains a resource-hungry endeavour.

Unless you are one of the five crew members aboard the MS Tûranor Planetsolar, the world’s largest solar-powered boat, which earlier this year made it around the globe without expending a single gram of fuel.

The 100-foot catamaran is covered with more than 500 square metres of high-efficiency solar panels, which are connected to two electric motors found in its hulls.

Everything aboard, from its navigation system to coffee machine, is powered by the sun’s rays. Malta’s beating summer sun meant that the boat was generating more energy than it could store, captain Eric Dumont explained.

He was reluctant to say how much the boat cost to build, although the Guinness Book of Records puts its cost at a whopping €15 million.

Resources Minister George Pullicino paid the boat and its crew a brief visit yesterday morning. As he admired the feat of engineering, Dr Pullicino drew parallels with the increased uptake of solar-generated electricity by Maltese households.

The majestic boat arrived in Malta on Saturday as part of a brief Mediterranean tour. It will be making brief stops in Balluta Bay, St Paul’s Bay and Għadira Bay on Thursday before docking overnight at Mġarr, Gozo.

It will then leave Maltese shores on Friday morning, gradually making its way back to its home berth in Monaco, where it is expected to undergo a revamp based on the lessons learned throughout its round-the-world voyage.

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