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Biodiesel boat gives up on record, says report

Spare parts, or lack thereof, ground biodiesel racer.

An effort to set a record for circumnavigating the globe and make a statement about the environment is over, according to a news report from New Zealand.

TV 3 in New Zealand reports that Pete Bethune, captain of the Earthrace, has conceded that it will be impossible to beat the record.

The Earthrace, a boat that runs on biodiesel and employs other green technologies, launched on March 10 from Barbados. Since then, it has been plagued by mechanical problems and also got delayed by a wreck in Central America. For the past several days, the boat has been stuck in Palau foraging for parts.

The Earthrace, docked in S.F. in August. Stefanie Olsen/CNET

"Even if we had a perfect run from here, there's no way we'd get the record by Barbados," Bethune, who is from New Zealand, wrote in his blog. Bethune's last post was April 26, on the early side of the International Date Line. The TV 3 story was posted April 27, New Zealand time.

The record for circumnavigation is 75 days, and it was set in 1998 in by a British group of sailors in a regular diesel boat. Although Bethune did not have extensive open-water sailing experience, the Earthrace on paper seemed to have a pretty good shot at the record. The boat, a trimaran, can cut through high waves and travel at 40 mph.

Several biodiesel refiners had agreed to supply the boat with fuel. Ironically, the only place that a sponsor had not delivered biodiesel, a form of diesel made from vegetable oil and/or animal fat, was Palau. Thus, even if the boat had nabbed the record, it may have had to rely a bit on fossil fuels.

The boat also employed organic compounds to keep barnacles off the hull.

The boat has created a media sensation in nearly all the ports it has docked and Bethune has mostly kept an open boat policy for visitors.