A local sailor will strive to inspire the shipping industry to ditch dirty fuels as he aims to smash the "Premier League of ocean racing" - powered by clean energy.
After winning two Championships and setting world records in the Class 40, Phil Sharp (38) wants to join the Imoca Globe Series, a four-year championship that includes two round-the-world races - with a 60ft boat powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology.
The series will also include the fully-crewed global Ocean Race in 2021, followed by two transatlantic races; the 2022 solo Route du Rhum, and the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre in 2023. It will culminate with the 'Everest' of sailing, the Vendée Globe, a solo round-the-world race in 2024.
“This is really going one step further in terms of the vision and the objective for racing,” the La Rochelle-based sailor said. “We’ve done quite a few trans-atlantics now over the last three years, finished on the podium in all the trans-atlantics and now won two Class 40 championships. Our objective is to move up to the 'Premier League of ocean racing', the 60-foot class and to take on an around-the-world race.”
Video: Phil Sharp talks about the 60-ft IMOCA boats.
To do this, Sharp and his team will be building a state-of-the-art 60-ft boat called ‘OceansLab', which will feature the latest in foiling design but also clean energy technology.
“We’ve been racing in zero emissions with principally solar over the last few years and now we’ve gone one step further to remove the diesel engine on the boat and replace it with a hydrogen electric system,” Sharp explained.
“This is very innovative, and the objective of Oceans Lab is to accelerate the uptake of very important clean innovations that are going to be required to clean up the shipping industry and to find renewable energy solution to replace the very dirty fuels that exist in shipping.”
Pictured: Phil Sharp won the the Class40 Championship last year.
A mechanical engineering Master’s graduate of Imperial College London, Sharp believes this technology can be adopted by larger scale commercial shipping and marine craft, reducing carbon emissions to zero.
“Oceans Lab is really about doing that on a small practical scale and giving some very useful feedback and technical advancement to the industry in order to embrace these clean technologies,” he said.
To fund the build, Sharp is looking to bring in new partners who can benefit not only from being part of an epic sporting journey, but also the results of testing innovative energy generation and storage systems in the maritime environment.
Video: Phil Sharp discusses his new challenges.
He hopes that local companies will get involved to help put Jersey on the map in around-the-world races.
“We really want to fly the flag for Jersey,” he said. “I think it’s really important for the island with its deeply-rooted maritime history to have a place in the international maritime sector and we’d really much like to do that with a competitive entry in the ocean race and the Vendée Globe.
"We are very keen to connect with people and businesses in Jersey, potentially with more global organisations as well who can really reap the benefits of associating with such a project.”
Pictured: Sharp and his team have installed a hydrogen fuel cell on the Class 40 boat.
In the meantime, Sharp and his team have already installed clean-hydrogen fuel cell technology on board his Class 40 OceansLab, Imerys Clean Energy, to power the propulsion and electronic systems.
In May 2020, Sharp will be attempting to conquer The Transat, the toughest of the transatlantics, this time routing from Brest to Charleston, after losing the 2016 edition due to a torn mainsail.
Sharp said that becoming a father with the birth of daughter Axelle, now two months old, has underlined to him that time is of the essence when it comes to global warming.
“We cannot leave the world in an irreversible mess for the next generation to deal with,” he said. “I gain huge satisfaction from doing something tangible for the environment and having some impact from what I am doing on the water. It amplifies the interest and my relationship with the ocean by an order of magnitude.”
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