Jimmy Cornell: the future is electric

Jimmy Cornell needs no introduction to long-distance cruising sailors (or those who dream of it). He has sailed several hundred thousand miles around all the oceans of the world, launched rallies for cruisers to follow in his wake, and written several bestselling guides, most notably the classic World Cruising Routes, now in its 8th edition. 2020 is Jimmy’s 80th year, but never one to stop for long, he is about to embark on one of his most adventurous voyages yet. In this blog he explains where he’s going, how, and the reason why.

In 2010 I sold my Aventura III and, as I was 70, felt that the time had come to call it quits. That didn’t last long and by 2013, with accelerating climate change increasingly making the news for those who were prepared to listen, I decided to get another boat and attempt to transit the Northwest Passage. Described by scientists as the “canary in the mine” of global climate, whatever happens there eventually spreads to the rest of the world. I did manage to transit this once impenetrable waterway, now opening up as a consequence of climate change. I also saw the consequences of global warming affecting the local population. With mission accomplished, in 2017 I sold Aventura IV, and that was it. But not for long, as three years later, with climate change surpassing the worst predictions, I decided to put retirement on hold for a bit longer and try something completely different. Like sailing around the world on a fully electric boat along the route of the first circumnavigation 500 years previously.

My concern for the state of the oceans has been strongly influenced by my own observations during 45 years of roaming the oceans of the world, as well as being regularly reconfirmed by my research into global weather conditions when I am updating my various books. The 500th anniversary of the first round the world voyage seemed the perfect opportunity to sail that same route and do it in an electric boat with a zero carbon dioxide footprint.

As to the historic dimension of my project, its aim is not only to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the first round the world voyage but also to put right a persistent wrong. The first circumnavigation continues to be attributed to the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan.  In fact, the Basque sailor Juan Sebastian Elcano should be credited with this achievement, as he sailed with Magellan from the start in 1519, took over the leadership of the expedition when Magellan was killed in the Philippines, and completed the voyage in 1522. Hence the Elcano Challenge but with a play on words: EL.CA.NO.   ELectricity. CArbon. NO.

Aventura Zero is a 48-foot Outremer catamaran with propulsion provided by two 15 kW electric saildrives.  The Finnish company Oceanvolt have been working on electricity regeneration for the last twenty years and have produced an ingenious system based on their ServoProp variable pitch propeller. The configuration of the specially designed blades is capable of delivering optimal efficiency both forward and reverse, and also in hydro-generation mode. When sailing, the propellers are capable of generating an estimated 800 to 1,000 W at 6 to 8 knots. In addition, Aventura Zero will also have a large amount of solar panels (1,300 W).

Aventura Zero was launched at the Outremer boatyard in the south of France in late August and we have a provisional departure in the second half of October. The 32,000-mile voyage is an ambitious undertaking, but I am prepared to take on the challenge and show that such a concept is viable for a cruising boat, and should become the norm in the long term.

For many years I have been ending my long-distance cruising seminars telling the audience that the most beautiful moments in life are still to come. I am the living proof of that.

You can read more about Jimmy and order all of his books at a 10% discount on our website here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/author/jimmy-cornell/ You can also follow the progress of Jimmy’s preparations and the voyage on his website here.