Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Harnessing Ingenuity

The other day I was watching the Volvo Ocean Race series of videos posted on YouTube and the thought struck me, they are crossing oceans faster than modern cargo ships, without using any mechanical propulsion while on the race course. Granted they are doing it on stripped down 70' carbon fiber sleds. But still, averaging 15 knots and hitting peaks of 25+ knots is nothing to be scoffed at.

If I had billions at my disposal, I would offer a prize for the boat that could complete the fastest trans-pac or transatlantic carrying two or three containers under wind power. That would change the game in several ways.

First of all, shipping could transition from fossil fuel dependent monstrosities to independent or family owned boats of 300' to 400' competing for labor costs instead of fuel overhead. Fleet flexibility means cargo can be routed to many different ports of call instead of being centralized in "major ports" minimizing overland transport fuel consumption. Sailing is a skilled trade, and reliance on sailors once again ultimately could revive a once vibrant diverse economic market that today is in the choke hold of a handful of major players.

While the global economic system has to face up to its non-sustainable fuel addiction sooner or later, this might be a fun and productive way to help ensure methods for easing that transition are actually researched and developed when that time comes.

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