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Global voyage is back on track

DEC. 20 —New Zealand adventurer Pete Bethune doesn’t easily give up.

After one previous attempt went awry, Bethune announced that he would again try to break the marine speed record for circumnavigating the globe aboard Earthrace, a 78-foot wave-piercing trihull powerboat that runs on 100 percent biodiesel, according to the project’s Web site. The current record is 74 days by British 115-foot monohull powerboat Cable and Wireless Adventure; Bethune intends to do it in 64 days, with a planned March 1 start from Valencia, Spain.

But Earthrace has taken its share of hard knocks this year. The boat collided with a fishing boat off Guatemala in March, killing a fisherman and causing a crack in Earthrace’s heat exchanger. On May 30, a four-foot crack in the main hull made the mission impossible to continue (August 2007 issue of Soundings).

Bethune, who had already borrowed $600,000 on the venture, caught a break in September when British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson became interested in backing the project created to increase environmental awareness. Bethune plans to travel across the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans as well as the Panama and Suez Canals.

Earthrace is powered by a pair of 540-hp Cummins MerCruiser diesels that carry 2,500 gallons of biodiesel for a 3,000-mile range. Top speed is 40 knots.

— Elizabeth Ellis