Cousteaus Experimental Windship 'Alcyone' Arrives In New York
The experimental windship Alcyone arrived in New York recently after a highly successful trans-Atlantic crossing from La Rochelle, France. The maiden voyage, with Capt. Jacques-Yves Cousteau aboard, was designed to test extensively the Cousteau-Pechinev Turbosail ™ wind propulsion system with which the vessel is equipped.
The unique craft docked at the South Street Seaport Museum on the East River. It was joined by the Cousteau Society's famed research vessel Calypso, which recently underwent an extensive refurbishing at Saint Augustine Shipbuilding in Florida, and accompanied by Coast Guard, police, and fire boats, as well as a flotilla of private vessels from New York area yacht clubs.
At dockside ceremonies, Captain Cousteau told the assembled guests, representing the press, diplomatic corps, business and financial community, academia, and government, that the Alcyone far exceeded expectations and "sailed like the wind. I would take her anywhere," he added.
Named after the daughter of the Greek god of the wind, the Alcyone was launched earlier this year at La Rochelle, and went through extensive sea trials in that vicinity. The voyage to New York included scheduled stopovers in the Azores and Bermuda for additional sea trials and filming.
Fondation Cousteau, with the help of the Paris-based Pechiney company, began construction of the Alcyone in May last year. The vessel is 103 feet long and constructed entirely of aluminum. She was built for the high seas and is equipped with two all-aluminum Turbosail units. A microcomputer controls the Turbosail propulsion system and operates both in response to the climatic conditions encountered and to direct orders from the vessel's captain. The computer also records all pertinent data for future study.
The Cousteau-Pechiney Turbosail system utilizes wind for the propulsion source. The aluminum "sails"—the Turbosail units—are hollow, orientable cylinders with suction areas on both sides. A fan on top of the cylinder draws air through the open, leeward side in order to create the lift phenomenon needed for propulsion. The movement of the sails is controlled electronically.
Renewed interest in wind as an auxiliary is linked to the high cost of fossil fuels. "The Cousteau-Pechiney Turbosail system that propels the Alcyone was designed to harness this clean, natural resource of which there is an unlimited supply." said Captain Cousteau.
The Turbosail system is designed to cut fuel costs for commercial vessels by 15 to 25 percent, depending on the routes sailed and the winds encountered. "This technology represents a significant potential savings to the shipping industry, as well as the conservation of large amounts of fossil fuels," said George-Yves Kervern, president of Pechiney's Aluminum Branch, which did extensive work on the Turbosail system at its research and development center in Voreppe, France.
Pechiney is also perfecting a range of Turbosail systems for a number of different types of ships.
A marketing study conducted by Pechiney and Fondation Cousteau indicates that by 1990, there will be a potential of around 100 new or existing merchant ships a year that could be equipped with the system.
They essentially will be merchant ships of 3,000 to 80,000 dwt; 90 percent of the ships built today fall into this category. Fishing vessels also constitute a promising market for this auxiliary propulsion system.
During tbe next two years, Alcyone will continue her voyage around the world to further prove out the system's commercial feasibility.
During this period, it is planned to install the Turbosail system on a commercial vessel. Currently, Pechiney is studying, along with Fondation Cousteau and a shipbuilder, and with the help of the European Economic Community Commission, the possibility of installing the system on a 5,000-dwt vessel that is scheduled to be launched in March 1986.
Fondation Cousteau, headquartered in France, and The Cousteau Society of the U.S., are nonprofit environmental research organizations dedicated to the preservation and improvement of life on our planet. Both organizations are under the direction of Captain Cousteau.
Pechiney is a major world producer of aluminum, advanced metals and materials, nuclear fuels, and carbon and copper products. The company maintains a growing commercial network in 65 countries, which will allow international marketing of the Turbosail system.
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