America’s Cup: Watch Team NZ’s hydrogen chase boat reach 50 knots

For the past five weeks, Emirates Team New Zealand has been testing its prototype hydrogen-powered foiling chase boat ‘Chase Zero’, which has been put through its paces on the waters of Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf.

The team say they have now run Chase Zero for a total 36 hours of motoring, covering over 1,042km (562.6 nautical miles) on the water, with the only emissions of its operations being pure water.

In the video below, skipper Chris Salthouse takes the vessel out for a cruise, to test its range with full tanks, and doesn’t return for six hours.

“We filled the tanks up to 96 per cent so we wanted to take Chase Zero out to test its cruising range and reliability at the same time,” recalls Salthouse. “So we set out to circumnavigate a few islands around the Hauraki Gulf, we just didn’t expect to be cruising for as long as we did. We ended up motoring for nearly six hours in the end and covered 280km (or 151.2 nautical miles) at an average speed of 28.3 knots and still had about 10 per cent gas left in the tanks.”

Chase Zero is the first boat to be launched in this America’s Cup cycle, and one that is hoped will set the foundations of a seismic shift towards a cleaner more sustainable future in powerboating around the world. 

“Our hydrogen-powered chase boat is cutting edge technology, so like we do with our race yachts we have been cautiously stepping it through the commissioning process,” says Chase Zero operations coordinator Nick Burridge, who has been overseeing the on-water operations programme. “But in saying that, we have progressed through it quite nicely and really ticked off some key milestones, some of which have really exceeded our expectations.”

The top speed of Chase Zero to date has been clocked at 50.3 knots (93.16km/h) on its 9th day of testing, which meets the expectations of the design.

Along with the speed testing, the range of Chase Zero with full tanks had to be tested and verified.

The same day’s run in a regular 11m chase boat with twin 250hp outboards on it, would have used 140 litres of petrol an hour at 28 knots, which would have equated to 825 litres total, according to Team New Zealand.

The team can now calculate that the range of Chase Zero on four full 8.4kg tanks of hydrogen gas is 330 km (or 178.19 nautical miles) at the cruising speed of 28-30 knots.

“As a team we are very proud of Chase Zero and we know we are leading the way forward to a cleaner emission-free future of powerboating in the marine industry,” says Emirates Team New Zealand sustainability ambassador Sir Stephen Tindall “The team have done an amazing job accelerating this technology forward in a very short timeframe, and exceeding even their own high expectations, so there is an exciting and cleaner future ahead which includes several other potential NZ hydrogen marine projects under consideration. New Zealand might continue to lead the pack.”

The next America’s Cup will be held in Barcelona in 2024. The confirmation came after team New Zealand officially rejected a NZ$99 million (£52m) bid from the New Zealand Government and Auckland Council to host AC37, with a long and controversial selection process for the venue ensuing.

Barcelona will become the first venue in the world to host both an Olympic Games and an America’s Cup event.

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