Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Eco-friendly boat a world first

Kiwi-designed Turanor PlanetSolar on its attention-grabbing cruise up the River Thames in London.
Kiwi-designed Turanor PlanetSolar on its attention-grabbing cruise up the River Thames in London.

The world's largest solar-powered boat was dreamed up by a trail-blazing Kiwi designer and his team in a tiny Auckland waterfront office.

Looking like something from a sci-fi movie, MS Turanor PlanetSolar drew huge crowds when it cruised London's River Thames this week.

Launched in Florida in June, the eco-friendly catamaran is a lightweight carbon structure powered by 512sq m of photovoltaic cells.

Dad-of-three, Craig Loomes, 52, designed the $25 million craft with his small team at LOMOcean, based at Auckland's Westhaven Marina, for a German entrepreneur. Turanor was built in Kiel, Germany, in just 11 months and is hosting a team from Switzerland's University of Geneva as they seek a better idea of climate change's effects.

"I had no doubt the vessel would work," Loomes told the Herald on Sunday. "I'm really proud it is now gathering scientific data that could benefit us all."

After completing the scientific research, the vessel will be turned into one of the world's most eye-catching superyachts - with six luxury cabins, complete with en suites.

"It was a bit like being asked to design a Formula One car fit to win a grand prix, but that could also be used by Granny to take to the supermarket to get the shopping," Loomes said. "We are proud that a New Zealand company was able to pull off something like this."

- Herald on Sunday

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