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The Energy Observer project was born in 2013 from the commitment of Victorien Erussard, a master mariner. He gathered around him a complementary team of skippers, professional sailors, engineers and reporters to create the first self-sufficient vessel capable of drawing its energy from nature whilst also preserving it.

Developed from a legendary award-winning catamaran, Energy Observer is a laboratory for ecological transition designed to push back the limits of zero-emission technologies. Hydrogen, solar, wind and water power, all the solutions are experimented with, tested and optimised here with a view to making clean energies a practical reality that is accessible to all.

Energy Observer shipyard


From competition to climate

Whilst carrying out his profession as an officer in the merchant navy, Victorien Erussard also graced a series of race podiums over a 10-year period that included the Route du Rhum, the Transat Jacques Vabre and the Quebec-St Malo. During one of these transatlantic races, where his diesel generator broke down in the middle of the Atlantic making it impossible for him to continue his journey despite being surrounded by an abundance of renewable energies, he realised that the finest victories are those that are meaningful. The experience prompted him to devote his time to the race for energy intelligence rather than a haul of sports trophies.

In this way, in 2013, he purchased a legendary catamaran that once belonged to Mike Birch and Sir Peter Blake, which was in storage in a boatyard in Lorient. The boat was then repatriated to Saint Malo, the corsair city that would become her port of registry.

“The transformation was twofold: recycling a light and reliable racing catamaran and round the world record holder and hence making it possible to invest in research and development rather than composite.”

Victorien Erussard, President, founder and captain

From the get-go, Victorien put together a team with this dual DNA: a merchant navy background providing rigour and reliability, and an offshore racing background providing a thirst for performance, agility and technological know-how. This team has now been fleshed out with engineers and researchers from the top laboratories, who come along to bring their innovations face to face with the most demanding of environments: the ocean.

Nicolas Hulot and Victorien Erussard sailing

Major transformations

With the advice of the vessel’s patron, Nicolas Hulot, a former Minister of Ecology and president of an environmental group, the team very quickly begins work on a hydrogen solution for producing and storing renewable energies aboard. With the CEA-Liten (Laboratory for Innovation in new Energy Technologies and Nanomaterials), a comprehensive chain is designed and installed on-board the boat, ranging from the electrolysis of sea water through to the fuel cell in what is a world exclusive! A far cry from sterilised laboratories, this system has to prove its worth in a very wet, corrosive environment, whilst subjected to the worst weather conditions, and rapidly attain a high-level of autonomy and reliability. Sun, wind, waves and currents will be the new fuels for this vessel.

During Energy Observer’s refit, two main, historic partners commit to supporting the project: Accor Hotels and Thélem Assurances.

  • Energy Observer first shipyard
  • Energy Observer first shipyard
  • Energy Observer first shipyard 2016
  • Energy Observer first shipyard
  • Energy Observer first shipyard
  • Energy Observer first shipyard end 2016


The start of the expedition

In June 2017, Energy Observer is launched in Saint Malo in preparation for her circumnavigation of France. She is equipped with all the latest technologies, including bi-facial heterojunction solar panels, vertical wind turbines and a control system using automatons comprising over 1,500 sensors and hundreds of alarms. Of the boat that secured the Jules Verne Trophy in the hands of Sir Peter Blake in the last century, all that’s left are the hulls, which have been transformed into a genuine floating laboratory. The crew, which includes two to three on-board engineers, now has at its disposal a vast central cell brought to life by the touchscreens that run all the systems. It’s a whole new adventure for a legendary boat.

Victorien Erussard, Jérôme Delafosse and Marin Jarry on the deck of Energy Observer

Energy Observer was christened on 6 July in Paris, the vessel’s first stopover, in the presence of her patrons Nicolas Hulot, the then Minister for Ecological and Inclusive Transition, and Florence Lambert, Director of the CEA-Liten. Delanchy Transports, a family company and leader in fresh produce logistics, committed to clean mobility, joins the project’s Main Partners. The Air Liquide and Toyota groups, both committed to hydrogen-powered mobility, respectively join the project as a supporter and official partner.

Nicolas Hulot explodes the bottle of champagne on the boat with Anne Hidalgo, Florence Lambert, Victorien and Jérôme next to him


Mediterranean Tour

Having sailed 10,000 nautical miles along the French coast, Energy Observer undergoes her annual refit in Saint Malo with the aim of optimising and increasing the surface area of the solar panels and working on recovering calories from the fuel cell to store the energy in the form of heat. Her tour of the Mediterranean sets sail from Marseille bound for a series of iconic stopovers in one of the most polluted seas in the world.

  • Energy Observer in the Corinth Canal
  • Energy Observer in Efkada
  • Picture of Energy Observer in Venice
  • Picture of Energy Observer in Stromboli, Italy
  • Picture of Energy Observer in Tel Aviv

From Tunisia to Israel, via Venice, Valencia and Lisbon, Energy Observer enables numerous projects rolling out clean energies to gather pace by providing a platform for decision-makers, politicians and manufacturers.

The Engie group, committed to energy transition, joins the adventure on the eve of the departure as main partner.

Bertrand Piccard and H.S.H Prince Albert II of Monaco on board Energy Observer

“Energy Observer, just like Solar Impulse, makes exploration work for a better quality of life. We need to lead people towards the future by showing them solutions instead of depressing them.”

Bertrand Piccard, President of the Solar Impulse Foundation

France’s first ambassador of the SDGs

Victorien Erussard is appointed France’s first ambassador of the 17 sustainable development goals (set by the United Nations General Assembly for the year 2030) by the Ministry for Ecological and Inclusive Transition). His mission is to spread the word for France about the need to take action with regards to all aspects of ecological transition and inspire the greatest possible number of advocates.

Enjoying general appeal, Energy Observer’s mission is widely recognised and its consciousness-raising role is gaining ground, as evidenced by its raft of digital, audio-visual and expo-graphic productions.

  • Picture Victorien Erussard and Emmanuel Macron in 2018
  • Energy Observer Sustainable Development Goals flag

The first documentary series of 8 x 52-minute episodes was launched with the Canal+ group “Energy Observer: l’Odyssée pour le futur” (Energy Observer: the Odyssey for the future). The Energy Observer Solutions platform also saw the light of day in June 2019, with short video format to develop the prestige of the initiatives created by the women and men committed to developing practical solutions for a fairer and more sustainable world.


The epicentre of climate change

2019 marks a turning point in the history of Energy Observer, which becomes the first vessel to reach Spitsbergen with zero emissions thanks to her use of renewable energies and hydrogen. This island in the Svalbard archipelago is an epicentre for climate change, the temperatures here increasing twice as fast as elsewhere on the planet.

The challenge is twofold, both technological and human: proving that you can get around differently and documenting the impact of climate change in this fragile ecosystem, severely affected by the consequences of our human activities and still bearing the scars of coal mining. This expedition will be the subject of a 90-minute documentary broadcast by the Canal + group: “Energy Observer, les messagers de la Terre” (Energy Observer, Earth’s messengers).

“This navigation to Svalbard with extremely cold water and temperatures has allowed us to test everything, from storage to ENR production. A real race against fossil fuels, which we could not failed.”

Victorien Erussard, President, founder and captain

2019 is also synonymous with a series of spectacular stopovers (Antwerp, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Stockholm, Saint Petersburg, London…) during which time Energy Observer takes part in multiple demonstrations and events with shipowners, organisations specialising in the development of hydrogen and major international institutions like the International Maritime Organization.

Energy Observer under the Tower Bridge in London

World exclusives in the research and development department

Having designed and installed a complete hydrogen chain aboard the boat, Energy Observer integrates some of the very latest technologies, including Oceanwings®, which contribute to the success of her expedition to the Arctic whilst paving the way forward for a vast array of applications on commercial vessels. Constantly testing, modifying, optimising and demonstrating to validate the best systems, the team really creates a buzz at each stopover and decides to launch its design office to design, assemble and distribute zero-emission energy systems on an industrial scale. This is the birth of Energy Observer Developments, whose aim is to produce clean energy solutions accessible to as wide an audience as possible.

  • The Toyota Fuel cell 2020
  • The REXH2 by Energy Observer Developments
  • The Energy Designer team


The world is the limit

After its passages across France, the Mediterranean and northern Europe, the Energy Observer team continues with its optimisations and finalises its final refit in Saint Malo prior to 4 years circumnavigating the globe. A REX H2, developed by Energy Observer Developments around the Toyota fuel cell, is integrated in the vessel to boost the power of the on-board system and, above all, validate mass production technology. It’s the first time that a fuel cell developed on an industrial scale is to be tested in such harsh conditions: she will cross the Atlantic, confront what can sometimes be adverse and difficult weather conditions, whilst demonstrating flawless reliability.

CMA CGM joins the adventure as a strategic partner, supporting Energy Observer through its R&D capabilities and its maritime know-how, as well as the logistics required to transport the new exhibition village around the world.

  • Integration of the Toyota Fuel Cell system
  • Picture of Energy Observer for the Saint Malo Departure
  • Picture of Energy Observer in the Golfe de Gascogne

Self-sufficiency put to the test through lockdown

The Covid-19 crisis has shaken up the whole of the programme for 2020, which was initially supposed to take our vessel to Japan during the Olympic Games in Tokyo, then on to California, a pioneering state in America’s hydrogen mobility. Instead of this, the crew remains on lockdown at sea, where it is pushing the envelope in its on-board self-sufficiency experiment. The on-board production team is filming images in 4K of nature reawakening without human presence and, together with the scientists, it is focusing on bioinspiration to reenvisage the way forward for a suspended mankind.

Fitzgéral Jégo taking a picture from the beach