Solo voyager, 71, set for six-month journey across three oceans in UAE-built solar boat

Nova catamaran boat will raise awareness about sustainable travel and help fight plastic pollution

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A famed Russian voyager and explorer is set to spend six months alone at sea in a solar-powered boat currently being built in the UAE.

Fedor Konyukhov, 71, will sail across three oceans on the Nova catamaran to help raise awareness about sustainable travel and to conduct research on plastic pollution.

The vessel, painted in a striking green colour and with solar panels along its hulls and deck, was one of the star attractions at the Dubai International Boat Show, which concluded on Sunday.

“He will be travelling from Chile towards the end of this year all the way to Australia,” said his son Oscar, who was representing him at the boat show.

It’s not cheap to change to electric-powered boats but there are savings to be made in the long term when you factor in maintenance
Keith Oliver, Trident Engineering and Marine

“Then he will sail up towards Antigua and into the Canary Islands.

“We are planning on covering all three of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.”

Mr Konyukhov is no stranger to adventure, having circumnavigated the globe five times, including in an aerostat balloon.

He has also crossed the Atlantic Ocean 15 times in total, one of which was in a rowing boat in 2002.

If that was not enough, the Russian explorer has also conquered the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest, on two separate occasions.

That said, the journey on the Nova will be unique, as the vessel is completely solar powered with no back-up generators in case anything should go awry.

“The boat will have an automatic identification system, which is like a radar, so others can see where you are and keep tabs on it,” Oscar Konyukhov said.

Most of the journey will be spent inside one of two berths in the hulls on either side of the boat — one to sleep in and the other acting as a pantry and storage.

“Most of the time he won’t be on deck because it will get wet and slippy when you are in the ocean so he will largely be below deck,” the explorer's son added.

“He will have an emergency sail to use if he needs it and a phone to reach others, as well as the AIS.”

Green mission

Mr Konyukhov's voyage is not only about adventure: During its round-the-world trip, the vessel, which measures 11.25 metres by 8 metres, will also be carrying out an important scientific role.

Each day, a sample of water from the ocean will be taken and sent to an oceanographic institute to study microplastic levels.

The boat, which will cost in the region of $700,000, is being built in Dubai by Trident Engineering and Marine. Before it sets sail on its six-month mission, it will be tested in a series of speed trials in Dubai waters.

A key part of the project is showcasing the viability of sustainable travel in the boating industry, which is one of the key themes of this year’s boat show in Dubai.

“It’s as much a commercial showcase as it is carrying out scientific research,” said Keith Oliver, director of Trident.

“We brought it here to the show because we wanted to show people this is what can be done when you convert to more sustainable means of travel.

“The initiatives are going to come to ensure the industry changes but you still have an awful lot of diesel and petrol-powered boats right now.”

The Nova is designed to be completely sustainable and, with a keen eye towards reducing carbon footprints, the vessel will leave no trace of having been on the ocean at all, he said.

“One of the issues when it comes to converting is that is still seen as extremely expensive,” said Mr Olivier.

“It’s not cheap to change to electric-powered boats but there are savings to be made in the long term when you factor in maintenance.

“A lot of the charter companies don’t have the capital at the moment to go all green but change is coming.”

Updated: March 06, 2023, 7:21 AM