Financial problems now top the list of potential stoppers

The Earthrace team are still clinging to the hope they can break the Round the World Speed Record – but their dream of doing it using biodiesel is in tatters.

Skipper Pete Bethune refueled the craft with standard diesel in the Pacific archipelago of Palau, near the Philippines, after finding it impossible to source biodiesel in the remote islands.

He admits in his online diary he knew four weeks previously it would impossible to get the fuel there on time: “It really ****** me off at the time. The logistics of getting fuel to all these remote locations, however, has been a challenging exercise, especially when we’re looking to get it all sponsored. So a few days ago I bit my tongue and had Shell come down and refuel us with crappy old sulphur laced diesel.”

New Zealander Pete has also moved the start and finish point of the record bid to San Diego, in order to cut out the delays they experienced on the first three legs.

The boat’s untested carbon propellers began disintegrating on the first leg from Barbados to Panama; on the leg from Panama to Acapulco Earthrace collided with a Guatemalan fishing skiff, killing one fisherman; after the Guatemala to San Diego leg, the boat was held up for six days to repair mechanical problems probably caused by the accident.

At that point they had been delayed by 18 days and were almost 4,000 miles behind record pace, but still they pressed on.

There was a brief respite during a fast Pacific crossing, but problems emerged with the starboard engine in Palau, and after an agonising wait of eight more days for repairs, Pete was forced to admit the record was beyond their grasp.

Pete says: “We took an official start time when leaving San Diego in case it was needed, which it is now. We left San Diego on 7 April, so if we are to beat the record of 75 days we must finish in San Diego by 21 June.

“This is quite achievable if the boat has a good run from here. However, if there are any further significant delays in the next few legs then we will finish in Barbados and know we gave it our best shot.”

Pete admits his crew are worn thin by the voyage so far and the idea of continuing onto San Diego was not universally popular.
But ultimately it may be lack of cash reserves that puts an end to the project: “It will be a huge challenge to even make San Diego as it means we have to source additional fuel and money, when right now we don’t have enough money to get past Oman.

“But whenever we have hit a brick wall as regards funding or fuel or progress in general, someone or something has come along to take us just that little bit further. We hope this pattern continues for just a little bit longer.”