IMAGE: SOLAR POWERED CATAMARAN
Frederick Florin  /  AFP - Getty Images file
The completely solar-powered catamaran Sun21 sits docked in Basel on Monday before heading out on what's expected to be a journey 7,000 nautical miles long.
msnbc.com
updated 10/18/2006 12:10:22 PM ET 2006-10-18T16:10:22

The first solar-powered boat to attempt a transatlantic crossing has been christened and is now taking a farewell tour of European ports before setting off from Spain next month.

At 42 feet long, the Swiss-built and crewed "Sun21" was christened with Rhine spring water in Basel, Switzerland, on Monday as several hundred government officials and environmental activists wished shipbuilder Mark Wust and skipper Michel Thonney well.

"Fitted out with solar cells, batteries and electric motors, the catamaran will travel day and night without using a single drop of fuel," the team said in a press release. The team expects Sun21 to travel at 6-7 knots an hour, about average for a sailboat. The batteries store power for days with less or no sun.

The catamaran next heads along the Rhine to Rotterdam, Netherlands, before making its way to Seville, Spain, for the transatlantic start at the end of November.

Taking a course that runs 7,000 nautical miles, the team also aims to break the record for the longest-ever voyage by a solar boat.

"All thanks to the most important guest on our trip," Thonney said at the christening. "The sun, of course!"

The route is to include stops in the Cape Verde Islands, the Caribbean and then Florida and finally New York City on May 7, 2007.  Background on the Sun21 is online at www.transatlantic21.ch.

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