Earthrace record attempt continues despite tragedy

By | April 25, 2007
Earthrace captain Pete Bethune and his crew were allowed to leave Guatemala in late March after a fatal collision involving their Earthrace biodiesel-powered vessel and a fishing boat March 18. Earthrace is a wave-piercing boat in a bid to break the world record for circumnavigating the globe. After a year-long promotional tour with the boat, the crew started the record attempt March 10 and now continues its mission despite various setbacks.

The crew was detained for 10 days after the collision, which left a local fisherman missing and presumed dead, and another seriously injured. New Zealand native Bethune and crew told officials the fishing boat didn't appear on radar and didn't have the appropriate lights. A judge in Guatemala has ruled it was an accident.

Bethune met with the victims' families before the court hearing, according to an Earthrace press release. "That was a very emotional affair actually," Bethune said. "The crew's devastated, and the mind boggles about how the families feel, but they were very gracious. They had some questions about what happened on that night. I hope this gives a sense of closure to them. I'd hate to have left [Guatemala] without meeting with the families."

Bethune asked the widow of the killed fisherman in the accident if Earthrace could put his name on the boat in memory of her husband. She said her family would be honored. Bethune visited the injured man in the hospital. Earthrace's insurers have compensated the victims' families. To add to this tragedy, the Earthrace crew was unable to repair the boat while it was impounded in Guatemala, and Bethune suffered an infection from a foot injury sustained during the wait, according to the captain's Web blog on

During this time, Bethune was detained at a military base in Puerto Quetzal, and it was only after the intervention of Guatemalan President Oscar Berger that the country allowed Bethune's trial.

Bethune and his crew left Guatemala on March 28. Before they left, repairs had to be made to Earthrace's second set of propellers. The first set suffered unpredictable wear and tear in the first leg of the race and had to be replaced, slowing the boat between Barbados and Panama.

Further damage sustained in the collision was repaired in Mexico and San Diego before Earthrace resumed its record bid. However, mechanical problems hampered Earthrace in San Diego for several days. The team feels it has an extremely difficult challenge to get the record now, due to the amount of time lost in Guatemala, but the crew said it would do its best, according to an Earthrace press release.

Please visit for ways to support the ongoing record attempt. The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) is a sponsor of Earthrace, and many NBB members have supported Earthrace in various ways. For example, NBB Board member Harold Kraus, a Kansas soybean farmer, sponsored one leg of the race and was able to travel with the crew from San Diego to Hawaii.
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