‘Flying mattress’ to cross Atlantic

To highlight the benefits of alternative energy sources, the first woman to row the Atlantic solo plans to enter the record books again next year by crossing it in a solar-powered “sail balloon”.

Backed by the best of French industry, Peggy Bouchet, 34, has captured the public’s imagination – and admiration – with her planned 3,000-mile journey from west Africa to the French West Indies. She aims to set off early next year.

Windream One, as her 90ft craft is known, is an odd-looking contraption which, from behind, is reminiscent more of a giant air mattress than a helium-filled balloon.

In a crisis such as an unscheduled landing on water, the gondola suspended beneath it would double as a survival capsule. The most unusual feature, however, is the chien de mer (“sea dog”), a curved, carbon-fibre fin which, when lowered by rope from the gondola into the ocean, acts as a ship’s keel, enabling the balloon to travel almost into the wind.

Windream One is powered by solar panels and wind turbines. “With any luck, this will help to raise people’s awareness of the possibilities of renewable energy,” said Bouchet, a sentiment supported by Theolia, the wind turbine manufacturer sponsoring her.

Video: YouTube
Source: Times Online
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