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Jersey sailor launches hydrogen-powered boat in Vendée Globe bid

Jersey sailor launches hydrogen-powered boat in Vendée Globe bid

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Jersey sailor launches hydrogen-powered boat in Vendée Globe bid

Wednesday 25 October 2023


Jersey-born professional sailor Phil Sharp has taken a major step towards his goal of competing in next year’s Vendée Globe with the launch of his hydrogen-powered yacht.

Last week, the 60-foot foiling IMOCA monohull, called OceansLab, was lifted into the Loire at Nantes, where she was built, and her mast fixed.

The high-speed yacht is unique in that it is the first to be fitted with a hydrogen-fuelled power system, which runs the engine and systems on board.

Mr Sharp said: “Getting into the water after ten months of dedicated boatbuilding and development is a huge milestone for us, and our next challenge is to compete in my first solo transatlantic race in a 60-foot boat, which leaves Martinique on 26 November."

This race is a qualifier for the prestigious Vendée Globe – the world’s preeminent single-handed round-the-world race, which sets sail from Les Sables d’Olonne on 11 October next year.

Oceanlab Nantes.jpg

Pictured: Last week, the 60-foot foiling IMOCA monohull, called OceansLab, was lifted into the Loire at Nantes, where she was built, and her mast fixed.

Next month’s ‘Retour à la Base’ is a 3,500 race from the Caribbean island to Lorient on the south Breton coast. Mr Sharp is sailing OceansLab down there with three crewmates.

It is one of two transatlantic races which the 42-year-old has to take part in to qualify for next year’s 24,296-mile circumnavigation.

He said: “We are treading new ground as we have built a clean-energy hydrogen system never seen before in a boat of this type.

"Great efforts are being made to decarbonise the maritime sector, and we need to embrace hydrogen in our efforts to reach net zero. 

“Clearly, green hydrogen is vital and it will power work boats, ferries, cargo ships and other vessels in the near future.” 

OceanLab’s hydrogen is stored in pressurised tanks and is slightly heavier than diesel, although lighter than batteries. 

Phil Sharp.jpeg

Pictured: Mr Sharp at the helm of a previous yacht in 2019.

“Over long races, the weight difference with diesel becomes ever more marginal and it is a penalty we are happy to take on board,” explained Mr Sharp.

The professional sailor is a degree-qualified mechanical engineer and has long been an advocate of clean energy technology.

Away from yacht racing, he is the founder of Genevos, a start-up company which has developed an innovative plug-and-play hydrogen fuel cell module with scalable marine applications. This technology is onboard OceansLab.

If he qualifies, Mr Sharp will be the first Jersey-born sailor to compete in the prestigious Vendée Globe. Alex Thomson, who has strong links to the island, finished third in the 2012/2013 edition and runner-up in the 2026/2017 edition.

Mr Sharp, who holds three world sailing records, has undertaken gruelling sailing challenges before.

In 2018, he took on the Route du Rhum, a solo trans-atlantic race, using entirely clean energy. In 2017, he completed the Normandy Channel Race in the fastest recorded time at the helm of a zero-emission boat.

The Government is a 'brand ambassador' for OceansLab and Mr Sharp and his team is also working with Ports of Jersey to investigate the use of hydrogen technology in harbour infrastructure and vessels 

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