TIVERTON, R.I. - Associated Press - A Rhode Island sailor is reported to be developing the first solar powered Laser class sailboat.
The 14-foot boat, originally powered only by sail, is driven by a two-horsepower electric outboard motor, run from a standard car battery. The battery is charged by a solar panel mounted on the boat's deck.
Cosmo Tillerman, a retired IT manager and life-long sailor has been building the boat in his backyard for the past two years. The boat is said to be capable of reaching speeds of eight knots (9.2 miles per hour), "...much faster than I could ever go with a standard Laser rig," Tillerman said.
Tillerman apparently got the idea to convert his boat to power two years ago during a mid-winter race in Newport, Rhode Island's chilly waters.
"I just got tired of all the capsizes."
A 'capsize' is a nautical mishap in which a boat flips on its side, with the crew members usually being ejected into the water.
"I never really got the hang of doing a proper jibe, so I was getting wet a lot," said the lanky Tillerman, a Rhode Island resident, but a British citizen.
Tillerman has also been discouraged by the declining popularity of sailing in the United States and sees the future of boating to be in powered boats.
"Another factor that's killing sailing is all of those complicated racing rules. You need a law degree to keep them all straight - and, to make matters worse, they're always changing them."
Tillerman has been testing his new boat on the waters of Narragansett Bay, near his home. He sees a potential market for the boat among disgruntled sailors, but said he has no intentions to market the boat himself.
"I've been approached by Subaru about an unrelated marketing program, so I may see if they're interested in selling the powered Laser."
Several boat builders contacted by the Associated Press indicated the powered Laser concept is fundamentally sound since the speeds generated by the electric motor are well within the boat's original 'design envelope'.
Tillerman writes a popular blog about sailing where he has recently started posting articles on powerboating instead.
"Everyone thinks I'm pulling their leg, but I'm serious. The future is powerboating."
Tillerman usually uses only his last name in his blog.