Earthrace launch date approaches; funding still an issue

By | October 13, 2006
March 1 is not that far off. That fact is a "little bit daunting," said Pete Bethune, captain of Earthrace, a futuristic-looking, biodiesel-fueled powerboat. Bethune and the rest of the crew plan to leave Barbados on March 1 with hopes of circumnavigating the globe in a record-breaking 65 days. "I'm confident in the boat," Bethune told Biodiesel Magazine. "What I'm least confident in is our ability to have all the logistics in place."

Though speed is a factor in this race, it's not the only motivation. Bethune is using the boat to spread the word about alternative fuels, particularly biodiesel. Earthrace is the world's first 100 percent biodiesel-powered raceboat, he said.

The biggest snag at press time was that the project still lacked a total sponsor. Earthrace, an effort to promote renewable fuels, was still short on funds. "We're keeping our heads above water," Bethune said.

It cost $3 million to build the race boat, he said. The boat was in the water in February, after 14 months and a total of 18,000 hours of labor.

The Earthrace powerboat is in the midst of a promotional tour that is set to come to an end Feb. 17. The boat will stop at 30 North American cities, to spread the word about the project to students, members of the public and media. Current high fuel prices help drive interest and support for the project. "It's a pretty receptive audience right now," Bethune said.

In most of the cities on the tour, host sponsors have helped with costs. Other sponsors have helped out by providing equipment, such as Panasonic, which chipped in with $150,000 in multi-media equipment.

When Earthrace stopped in Seattle, Wash., in early August, Imperium Renewables Inc., an area biodiesel producer, provided biodiesel for the boat. "The marine industry is something that we are very interested in," said Brian M. Young, director of business development for Imperium. "I think Pete's project will bring attention to the fact that you can use biodiesel in many marine applications, and you can use it safely."
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