Jersey sailor plans tour and record bids to promote clean energy

Phil Sharp onboard OceansLab. (PICTURE: Lloyd Images) (37842480)

JERSEY sailor Phil Sharp is planning a European tour – including possible tilts at a brace of world records – in his hydrogen-fuelled yacht to demonstrate the potential of clean energy technology.

The former Victoria College pupil has readjusted his goals for 2024 and intends to schedule a stop in Jersey later in the year as part of his drive to highlight the alternatives to fossil fuels.

Mr Sharp had hoped to become the first Jersey-born sailor to compete in the Vendée Globe, the prestigious single-handed, round-the-world race that begins this November, but delays to starting sea trials in his 60ft monohull yacht OceansLab brought about a change of plan.

The high-speed yacht is unique in that it is the first to be fitted with a hydrogen-fuelled power system, which runs the engine and systems on board.

“The aim was to be able to trial OceansLab and achieve official qualification for the Vendée, but the boat was about two months late in being delivered last year and there was not enough time,” he said. “It [the Vendée] is something I’ve been dreaming about for a while, but it’s important to accept where we are and move forward.

“There’s no reason why we couldn’t aim for the [next edition of the] Vendée in 2028 if things go to plan. We’ll see what develops.”

Meanwhile, Mr Sharp is focused on his “Blue Horizon” tour, which will see him start a three-month European voyage in the north of the continent in September and then move towards the Mediterranean… with a stop in Jersey.

“We’ll have around eight stopovers, including Jersey, with the aim of promoting clean solutions that will enable maritime operations to be decarbonised, showing that hydrogen can be a scalable solution for pleasure boats, cargo ships and service vessels, engaging with local stakeholders and technology providers in each location,” he said.

Along the way, if weather conditions are conducive and OceansLab is performing as he hopes, Mr Sharp has an eye on two records, one of which he has held previously, as a way of demonstrating that clean energy can perform successfully in an elite sailing environment.

The longer-term ambition for Mr Sharp (42) involves the Ocean Race Europe, which is scheduled to start from the German port of Kiel in August 2025, with five-person crews tracking a 2,000-mile course through the English Channel before finishing in the Mediterranean.

The full-length, round-the-world Ocean Race, formerly sponsored by Whitbread and Volvo, is also on the radar and is due to start in late 2026 or early 2027.

Mr Sharp said: “There are some funding barriers and I’m looking to finalise some long-term partnerships with sponsors, so looking for positive progress during this year.”

The professional sailor is a degree-qualified mechanical engineer and has long been an advocate of clean energy technology. Away from yacht racing, he is the founder of Genevos, a start-up company which has developed an innovative “plug-and-play” hydrogen-fuel cell module with scalable marine applications. The Government of Jersey is a “brand ambassador” for OceansLab and Mr Sharp and his team are also working with Ports of Jersey to investigate the use of hydrogen technology in harbour infrastructure and vessels.

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