Thursday 25 December 2014

Man crosses Channel on solar boat

Published 23/06/2014 | 17:37

Simon Milward on his solar-powered boat (picture courtesy of AKT Foundation)
Simon Milward on his solar-powered boat (picture courtesy of AKT Foundation)

An adventurer has become the first person to cross the English Channel on a solar boat powered directly by the sun.

Simon Milward, 38, set off from Dungeness in Kent at 8.30am and single-handedlly navigated more than 30 miles using no energy source other than the sun.

His 15ft catamaran, equipped with six AKT solar panels - which fed directly to power two electric motors, reached Boulogne-sur-Mer after more than six hours.

Speaking from France, he said: "It was much more difficult than I expected. We had excellent sun, but it meant I got sunburnt. The biggest obstacles were the ships and the waves. I'm exhausted."

There were no batteries on the boat, which travelled at a speed of up to five knots, and the panels also produced electricity in shadows and cloudy conditions.

Before leaving, Oxford graduate Mr Milward, from London, said: "The English Channel contains the most crowded shipping lanes and some of the strongest tides in the world.

"I will have to navigate through these alone, perched on my small boat, dependent entirely on the sun for power.

"The AKT solar panels on my boat will be generating over 1000W of electricity when the sun shines and will provide this directly into the electric motor to power me forward."

After graduating from Hertford College, Oxford, Mr Milward wanted to become a full-time mountaineer, but he broke his back in Canada aged 21.

After recovering, he worked in different countries in international development before settling down with his wife and son.

In March last year, he made the first-ever crossing of the Western Sahara on a solar-powered bicycle.

Mr Milward, who was fund-raising for Oxfam, said: "Solar energy is a versatile, pollution-free and inexhaustible fuel source that can supply electricity anywhere in the world.

"Every hour the Earth receives enough energy from the sun's rays to satisfy the world's energy needs for an entire year and yet we still have over 1.2 billion people - 20% of the world's population - who don't have access to electricity.

"My dream is to help spread this technology to where it's most needed and where it can make a real difference to so many people's lives."

Press Association

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