Posts Tagged ‘round the world’

Closer to launching

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

The last month has seen significant progress with Team Britannia‘s round the world powerboat Excalibur. Not only are the engines in place, but we’ve had a trial fitting of one of the jets in order to get precise measurements for the way they fit to the transom. And the complex skeleton of aluminium framework, exposed for so long, is now hidden from view with all the deck plates having been welded into place. The 3/4 inch plywood floor has been fitted in the wheelhouse, which is also taking shape, so there is now no longer an uninterrupted view from bow to stern. The upper section incorporating roof and flybridge has already been fabricated, and will be lifted into place very soon.

What hasn’t been shown photographically is the system of pipes and pumps interconnecting the six huge fuel tanks. Apart from delivering fuel to the engine room ready to be mixed with the Clean Fuel emulsifier and water, there’s another purpose. The attitude of a powerboat in the water is generally controlled by trim tabs acting as trailing edge flaps on the underside of the hull at the stern. They work well, but in so doing, they introduce extra drag. Excalibur will be trimmed rather the way Concorde was in flight, by pumping fuel from one tank to another to distribute the weight.

We also hosted our first public open day on 30th June, when around 150 people visited the boatyard, some travelling from as far away as Scotland. They included partners and supporters, enjoying a close-up look at the boat and chatting to members of the crew, all in glorious sunshine, with the barbecue and bar kept pretty busy throughout. We were delighted to welcome Portsmouth North MP and Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt, and the media were there too, including Portsmouth News, Express FM and That’s Solent News.

Top calibre Excalibur

Saturday, June 2nd, 2018

As construction of Team Britannia’s round the world powerboat Excalibur approaches its final stages, here are some of the technical questions which have cropped up recently from social media followers.

State of the art round the world sailing yachts are made from carbon fibre composite. So why not Excalibur? We’ve had a strong eco theme running all the way through the project, and for that reason, we couldn’t consider carbon fibre. Light and strong it may be, but in some quarters it’s regarded as the next asbestos time bomb. It simply isn’t an environmentally friendly material – there’s no responsible way of disposing of it once it’s done with. Excalibur, on the other hand, is not only made from recycled aluminium, but in the event that she’s ever scrapped, over 90% of the boat will be recyclable.

The way she’s been put together is also worthy of note. We’ve used pulsed MIG (Metal Inert Gas), an efficient form of welding which provides a neat strong weld, and is particularly favoured for welding thinner aluminium plate, where the problem of warping and burnthrough would otherwise be a risk. Unlike other forms of welding, there is no spatter which has to be cleaned up afterwards, and it’s also favoured where the welder is operating in a confined space.

One of the great advantages of working in aluminium is the way bits can be added and removed to assist with the construction process. An early example of this would be the extra lugs welded on fore and aft to allow the boat to be turned over from its initial state upside down. With the installation of the six fuel tanks and retaining beams which will also support the wheelhouse floor, the top parts of the original frames in the wheelhouse area have now been removed. And with the FPT engines bolted in, you might wonder too how major servicing or replacement would take place, as the photos show the tops of the frames in the way. Here, too, when the transom is in position, the ceiling of the engine room will be remodelled to allow for a bolt-down hatch which can be unsealed if we need to lift anything in and out. Why did the engines go in first? Simply because it’s a lot easier sliding them in from the back rather than craning them in from above!

The boat has been built to conform to a whole raft of codings, verified at every stage of construction by an independent inspector. Excalibur won’t just be A1 – Lloyds of London’s highest shipbuilding quality – but well in excess!

With the installation of our two FPT diesel engines, some have questioned whether they have the power to push a boat of over 50 tons through the water. But having to run passages of over 3,500 nautical miles, the focus is not on brute force, but maintaining a modest average overall speed. This means that when the boat leaves each port fully fuelled, its initial speed will be quite slow. Then as the fuel burns off and the weight reduces, so the boat picks up speed. More powerful engines wouldn’t necessarily add much to our overall average speed, but could burn significantly more fuel.

Apart from a fuel-saving hull design, we have the most efficient power transmission, with the FPT engines coupled directly to our Castoldi jet drives with no intermediary gearboxes. The final piece of the jigsaw comes with our use of Clean Fuel, the diesel, water and emulsifier mixing process which will not only extend the boat’s range, but power it without emitting any of the pollutants normally associated with diesel engines.

One good turn

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Monday 5th December was quite literally a pivotal moment for Team Britannia. It was the day the hull of the round the world superboat was finally turned right side up. Since construction began in June at the Aluminium Boatbuilding Company on Hayling Island, the internal framework and hull plates had all been assembled with the boat upside down, purely because it makes the job a lot easier, with gravity lending a helping hand as well. With all the continuous welding completed, the lower part of the hull was sanded down and given a coat of primer.

The actual process of turning the boat was painstaking, and took a whole day. The boat had already had parts welded on at bow and stern to support it during its rotation, held up at the bow by an “A” frame, and at the stern, suspended from a crane. But before the “giant hog roast” took place, the upside down hull had to be jacked up on wooden blocks before the crane took over. Team Britannia boss Alan Priddy admitted to one or two nervous flutters during the operation, but was delighted with the outcome.

With the boat finally the right way up, one gets a much better appreciation of its size, and that’s still without the wheelhouse, which has been assembled in the unit next door. Apart from craning the wheelhouse and fore and aft decks into place, the internal fit-out will be preceded by fitting the six massive fuel tanks, the engines and jet drives.

Around the world in 2017

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

You’ll probably have gathered from previous blog posts that things were getting tight with the construction of Team Britannia’s round the world superboat, but we were still moving heaven and earth to get the boat finished in time for our planned departure from Gibraltar on 23rd October. We’d already eaten into a lot of our contingency time when we discovered last week that a couple of hull plates needed re-cutting. As we’ve found previously, the place in Southampton that does this is extremely busy, and there’s now no chance of getting the new plates for several weeks.

So Alan Priddy made the only logical decision to postpone the trip. The most favourable times to attempt a circumnavigation of the world are spring or autumn, and after our meteorologist in Gibraltar analysed 10 years-worth of weather data, our revised departure date is Sunday 12th March 2017.

In the meantime, we expect the boat to be in the water by the end of November, which means we’ll have the time we always wanted to complete full sea trials, which now may include a record run around Britain. There’s a good chance, too, that we will be able to display the boat at the London Boat Show in January. Yes, it’s a disappointment to have another delay, but bearing in mind that by the time we do the trip, this project will have been on the go for eight years, it’s not too desperate a burden. At least this time we actually have a boat!

Team Britannia in the press

Monday, April 18th, 2016

There was a little flurry of Team Britannia press activity over the weekend, including Alan Priddy’s appearance on BBC South Today. It’s all down to the fact that we have at long last pushed that magical green button to start building our round the world superboat. It’s been a long time coming – over seven years since the first drawing was produced, and for Alan Priddy, Jan Falkowski and me, the dream itself dating back to the end of the last millennium. Since then we have had numerous false dawns, including a first boat which came close to completion before an arson attack saw it cut up for scrap.

But this time there’s nothing to hold us back. The funding is in place, and once the aluminium has been laser cut, the boatyard on Hayling Island will assemble it. All being well, we should have a boat in the water by the middle to end of August, giving us enough time to run sea trials before transferring her to Gibraltar ready to set off on the circumnavigation record attempt on the 23rd October.

It has also been confirmed that we will have support from The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry’s Endeavour Fund. On each of the seven legs of the voyage around the world, we will have up to four crew members who are wounded ex-servicemen and women. An extensive selection process will take place over the next two to three months, overseen by former army Captain and Team Britannia crew member Stuart Croxford.

A lot has to happen between now and our departure from Gibraltar on the world record attempt – I’ll continue to update with further news as it’s released.

100 million people…

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

The past week’s press coverage for Alan Priddy’s round the world powerboat Team Britannia has been truly staggering. In the UK alone we hit three major national newspapers – the Sunday Times, Daily Mail and The Sun, along with Metro (regarded by some as almost a national), and numerous regional dailies. But our story has also been taken up by newspapers and boating magazines all over the world. A rough readership estimate would suggest around 100 million people are now aware of what we’re going to do next year.

Ironically, all of this was achieved using a graphic of the previous boat – the one we started to build which had to be scrapped after a fire in 2012. That’s one of the drawbacks in trying to run something global in scale while still attempting to earn a living! Now we have a new graphic which is rather closer to what you’ll see powering around the world next year. Not so much “torpedo”, more “Battlestar Gallactica”…

The first of the month saw us assembled in London for the Ship Efficiency conference, where we announced our partnership with SulNOx Fuel Fusions plc, the details of which you can read about in my preceding blog. Apart from the still photos shot by powerboat photographer Chris Davies, we also have a short video produced and presented by Jake Kavanagh, which you can see here.

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The ball has started rolling…

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

The last few days have been a bit of a blur as far as Alan Priddy’s round the world powerboat and Team Britannia are concerned. It started on Thursday last week with a major piece plus editorial comment in the Portsmouth News. Then on Sunday the ball didn’t just continue rolling more quickly, it went into overdrive.

We knew to look out for a piece in the Sunday Times, but we’d also circulated a press release to other media, where we didn’t know what uptake we might have. By midday on Sunday we could have been satisfied enough that news agencies had used it, as we started to see the story appear in various UK regional newspapers.

Then mid-afternoon we discovered we were in the Daily Mail. And so it continued, with other newspapers and specialist boating publications worldwide taking up the story.

Amazingly, all of this can be seen as just a prelude to the main event which will happen mid-week, when our partner makes themselves known in a blaze of publicity. It’s all starting to get just a little bit exciting!

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Round the world powerboat

Monday, August 4th, 2014

I haven’t posted anything about the round the world powerboat project for some time, because there hasn’t been anything to say. We did have a close shave earlier on this year when we thought we finally had funding for the project, but while the people themselves were very nice, it wasn’t the right deal for us. Since then, project leader Alan Priddy has been extremely busy with a string of negotiations, culminating with some good news.

At long last we have a main backer, which means it won’t be too long before we start building our amazing Professor Bob Cripps designed boat. I can’t tell you the name of the backer at the moment, because they won’t be announcing it themselves for a few weeks. And with a six month building programme, it does mean we’re not going to make a spring 2015 attempt on the record, so it has to shift back to November next year. On the plus side, it will allow extra time for sea trials and ironing out any wrinkles before the world record trip.

Hopefully the build will have already started by the time our backers make their announcement, and then the updates will be coming thick and fast. In the meantime, if you want to join us on this momentous voyage, you can do so via Faceboat.

When size can be a problem

Friday, May 21st, 2010

As the building of Alan Priddy’s round the world powerboat number two comes closer we’ve discovered all manner of unexpected logistical details which have to be factored in.

For example, Henshaw, the company which puts the inflatable tubes on RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats) would normally expect a boat to be delivered to their factory in Somerset for the tubes to be attached. Only trouble is, their factory is more used to handling RIBs up to around 11 metres. There aren’t too many RIBs bigger than that, and catering for a boat 25 metres long wasn’t in their game plan. So they will manufacture the tubes in Somerset, and then bring them to the place in the Midlands where the boat is going to be built.

And it so happens that there may be a slight transportation problem once it’s finished. Twice the maximum permissible length to be towed along a road on a trailer, and not that close to any water. So we may need to be a bit creative in order to get her feet wet. RAF heavy lift Chinook helicopter, perhaps?

Decade Gazing

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

I guess this is something I should have done a few days ago, but then I’ve never been one to put a great deal of store in the concept of New Year. It is, after all, just a system of numbering.

Having said that, the past 10 years have been quite momentous ones for me. I thought the 90s were pretty amazing – I did a huge amount of travelling, became the first journalist to fly in a hot air balloon in Soviet Russia, descended 100 feet to the bottom of Windermere in a submersible, and led a trek in Nepal for Everest legend Doug Scott (in the process coming back with one of the most exotic diseases on the planet).

But the noughties saw a personal journey rather more intense. I’ve had a few sticky moments in the mountains, but nothing could compare to the brutal punishment of being tossed around in storms up to Force 11 in a 33 foot powerboat. Spirit of Cardiff was built to break the record for circumnavigating the world, and by accident, I found myself part of the crew.

Spirit of Cardiff in Gloucester, MassachusettsWe didn’t break the round the world record, but we still set more boating records than anyone else, including Ellen MacArthur. In 2000 we set the very first ever world record for circumnavigating the British Isles by powerboat. It’s been broken several times since, but no one can take away the fact that Spirit of Cardiff was first! And in 2001, we set the new world record for a powerboat transatlantic from New York to Lizard Point. Not only does that one still stand, no one has even tried to beat it.

Finding yourself in an angry ocean in the middle of the night, 300 miles from land, is one of those things that forces you to confront your fears. And yet I was less concerned about the many times I had to worry about that during my epic voyage around the world in 2002, than the moment in Sri Lanka when I found myself staring down the receiving end of an AK47, or being chased by a pirate boat in the South China Sea. Those are the moments that stick in my mind as rather more scary than braving Mother Nature at her most aggressive.

Spirit of Cardiff ended up being lost at sea, abandoned in a dramatic rescue in the North Atlantic. It was one of the few trips she did without me on board, and I’ve always wondered how I would have faced up to that one – where the prospect of not surviving was even more stark than the ones I had to face. After that I went back to rather more gentle travel journalism, but the intention has always been to come back for another crack at the round the world record.

In the end, it didn’t happen in the noughties, but the successor to Spirit of Cardiff is designed, and a lot of the groundwork has been done. Of course, finding sponsors with deep pockets in a recession is a pretty tough call. But you never know – it could still happen in the next year or so. All of which leads me to thinking that there’s only so much gazing backwards one can do – forwards is always much more interesting!