Solar and wave-powered boats are all the rage. But what's could be more efficient than the wind?



There’s a growing trend to make use of alternative power to drive boats. This is the latest creation: the Aequus 7.0, a solar-powered, electrically driven day boat designed by Finot-Conq that will soon be formally launched at the Paris Boat Show.

On a larger scale, the PlanetSolar project being undertaken by the Knierim Yacht Club in Kiel is trying to create the futuristic catamaran pictured below with the goal of being the first such to circumnavigate the world. The Starship Enterprise design accommodates giant arrays of 38,000 solar cells, and the inventors and designers think it could be possible to average eight knots.

And it was only last year that Japanese sailor Kenichi Horie, 70, made a solo voyage from Hawaii to Japan on the world’s first ever wave-powered yacht. The 31ft catamaran Suntory Mermaid II was made from recycled aluminium and used hydrofoils at the bow of the boat to generate forward motion as the boat pitches on waves, acting like a dolphin’s tail.

He averaged around two knots and his top speed was a pedestrian 2.9 knots.

These are all fascinating projects but every time I read about another use of alternative energy I think: what about wind? Our use of this most reliable source of energy has reached such a sophisticated level that we are now able to do 908 miles in 24 hours. No other natural source of power is ever going to get anywhere near that.