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Kiwi Skipper Slams UK Record Bid as Green-Washing Scam

Kiwi Skipper Slams UK Record Bid as Green-Washing Scam

An Open letter to Alan Priddy and the sponsors of Team Britannia.

By Captain Pete Bethune

In 2008, I was fortunate enough to lead the Earthrace team in setting a new record for a powerboat to circle the globe, running biodiesel fuel made from waste cooking oils.

When UK Sailor Alan Priddy recently announced his plans to try and take this record, I sat on the sidelines biting my tongue, not wanting to criticize another man’s dream. His dream however has morphed into an environmental nightmare for the planet, and yet he has the audacity to claim it’s an environmental challenge. This is nothing short of a scam.

Based on data from the challenge website (see calculations below), the proposed vessel will guzzle 168,000 litres of diesel fuel in setting the record. To put that in perspective - it takes your average person nearly 2,500 years to consume such a vast amount of fossil fuel. Further to this, the challenge will add 450 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere from diesel alone, at a time when many countries are desperately trying to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions. All this to get your name in a record book is madness.

According to their website, Priddy already holds some 37 other powerboat records. He has spent a large part of his life, setting records and burning fossil fuels. His carbon footprint would already dwarf nearly everyone else on the planet, even ignoring the proposed 168,000 litres for this next attempt.

Despite all this, Priddy makes various environmental claims of his next challenge, including:

1) His vessel will be the most “fuel-efficient boat to circle the globe”. Yet based on his own projections he will consume over 30% more fuel compared with both previous record holders (Earthrace and Cable & Wireless)

2) His vessel will “be the most environmentally friendly boat ever built”. This is nonsense, given what his carbon footprint will be, what his fuel consumption will be, and when compared to biodiesel-powered vessels, solar-powered vessels, sailing yachts, and past record holders.

3) Priddy claims that his team will be making their own fuel as they travel around the globe. Again this is nonsense. He is simply running diesel fuel in diesel engines

4) Priddy claims his hull form will be 30% more efficient. Such claims are grossly premature when he hasn’t even launched his vessel yet, which by all accounts is a relatively conventional design.

Ignoring the fuel consumption and carbon footprint, the planet has already paid a heavy price with Priddy’s previous attempts to get this record. In his 2002 challenge in the vessel "Spirit of Cardiff", Canadian Coastguard, at considerable expense to Taxpayers, flew a helicopter half way across the Atlantic to rescue one of Priddy’s crew. The vessel limped back to Newfoundland where it sank a few days later, spilling an unknown quantity of fuel and oil into their harbor. The vessel was refloated and Priddy continued on his voyage, only to sink a second time. The same Canadian Coastguard helicopter rescued Priddy and his crew, just before the vessel sank to the bottom of the Atlantic, taking all its fuel, oil, plastic and metals with it.

Add to this, his latest challenge saw the half built 24m Boat destroyed in a suspicious fire 2 yeas ago. A huge volume of aluminum, energy and resource completely wasted. Now he’s building yet another boat to simply get his name etched on his 38th trophy. The planet has paid enough for Priddy’s records already.

Earthrace Conservation, like many other NGOs, is working hard to address environmental issues, and so it is particularly galling to see Priddy making ridiculous claims about being an Environmentalist or running an Eco boat while putting his hand out for donations. The fact is his project is environmentally repugnant. It is dishonest. And it detracts from legitimate NGOs and individuals who are actually doing genuine environmental missions.

Included with this would be our own organization Earthrace Conservation. We've closed down multiple shark finning, illegal fishing, and illegal gold mining operations. Our team exposed the brutal seal clubbing in Namibia and several illegal logging operations in Indonesia. We tackled the wildlife trade that is devastating Asia’s endangered animals. We’ve filmed 2 season of a TV Series “The Operatives” to highlight important conservation issues. Like many teams around the world, we do actually work on environmental missions.

In many ways the type of voyage Priddy proposes should be assigned to history. In 1998, the British boat "Cable and Wireless" went around the worldin 75 days running diesel fuel. Some 10 years later, Earthrace took their record running biodiesel fuel. Years later and the Vessel Turanor Planet Solar circled the globe completely on Solar power. There is even a Solar Plane now circling the globe. Priddy’s plan to use diesel fuel is turning the clock back to the 80s when thoughts were never on climate change, carbon footprints, or looking after our environment. Times have changed from those carefree days.

From here I am sure Priddy will point the finger at the fuel Earthrace used in getting the record in 2008, however it was Biodiesel made from waste cooking oils. He will say “what about our boat that was destroyed in Antarctica while deployed for another NGO”. At the time we were battling Japanese whalers and while we did lose the vessel, it played a key role in galvanizing public support against whaling in Antarctica. If forced the Australian and New Zealand Governments into taking successful court action against Japan that has seen the Antarctic whaling quota reduced by 2/3.

Priddy will also claim his campaign is environmental in nature because he will be running a fuel additive to help reduce emissions. Such claims are risible. He is still burning 168,000 liters of fossil fuel and dumping 450 tons of CO2 into an already congested atmosphere (more details on the additive in notes below). Putting a percent or two of totally unproven additive in your fuel and slapping a green sticker on the side of the boat hardly makes this a legitimate environmental campaign.

I note Priddy recently started offering wounded Veterans a voyage while soliciting for donations. Good for him, although I wonder how many wounded Veterans he took on his past 37 record voyages? I also wonder if said Veteran's have any idea of the price the planet has, and will pay, for him to get this record? I also wonder if they might be prepared to settle for more modest voyages around UK, but in the knowledge that they are not party to a project completely devoid of environmental merit.

In finishing, I am sure Priddy will claim this is sour grapes on my part, but I don't really mind. I am a Conservationist, and I believe what Priddy is proposing is fundamentally wrong on so many levels. Priddy, Team Britannia, and its sponsors are being grossly negligent in continuing with this challenge. There are many environmental projects they could undertake that would contribute positively to the health of this planet. Burning 168,000 liters of diesel to get your name in a record book is not one of them.

Press Release Ends.

Vessel Fuel Consumption data

• From url:

• Fuel Capacity 30,000 liters (Use 29,000 for safety)

• Vessel Range 4,000nm.

• Fuel burn = fuel / range = 29,000 / 4,000 = 7.3 litres / nm

• Voyage Consumption = Distance x Fuel Burn = 23,000 x 7.3 = 167,900 liters

Greenhouse Gas Emission Calculation

• Fuel burn = 167,900 liters Diesel (from above)

• Greenhouse Gas Emission Conversion Factor = 2.68 kg / Litre Diesel

• GHG emission = Fuel Burn x Conversion Factor = 167,900 x 2.68 = 450 tons--

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