Harry Besley has announced plans to circumnavigate Britain in an electric rigid inflatable boat (eRIB) to raise awareness of zero emissions propulsion

Harry Besley has spent most of his life around boats and has a passion for driving RIBS.

Like many teenagers, he is also aware of the environment and the challenges it faces.

He now wants to encourage the marine industry to become more sustainable, and has announced his Round Britain eRIB challenge, which will see the 17-year-old drive round Britain in an electric-powered RIB in July.

Two people standng next to each other wearing lifejackets

Harry is preparing for the challenge with RYA Power Boat instructor, Jim Thomas. Credit: Harry Besley

Charging the battery will be either through shore-side infrastructure, a ground support vehicle with on board mobile battery or on-water charging.

As part of the project, he is encouraging sailing clubs, marinas, harbour authorities and port operators to install charging facilities for electric engines, and Harry has teamed up with marine services supplier ROLEC.

‘Charging the battery so we can complete the circumnavigation is a big part of the challenge and ties in with our infrastructure project to try to help the marine industry understand how to charge electric boats all around Britain. The challenge is two strands: completing the circumnavigation and also leaving a legacy so that electric boats can be used at some of the locations we’ve visited,’ explained Harry, who is based out of Lyme Regis.

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Negotiations are still ongoing to secure a 5-7m RIB and the right propulsion system for the challenge, but Harry is expecting to start sea trials in April.

Harry plans to drive 30 to 50 miles per leg to visit over 40 locations around Britain, although this will depend on charging facilities.

‘So far, we’ve had some good feedback and support from marinas like MDL, and harbours. Ideally, we would want to be able to charge using fast charging pillars, but this won’t always be the case, especially around the North East of Scotland and other more remote areas.. We can hook up to a certain extent to existing power, plugging into three phase power with the right adapters. If at all possible, we do not want to be using any fossil fuels at all to charge so we are looking at contingency options too,’ explained Harry.

A man presenting a certificate to a teenager

Harry’s Round Britain in an e-RIB challenge is being backed by the RYA, British Marine and The Blue Green. Credit: Harry Besley

The teenager, who holds an RYA Level 2 Powerboat Handling, VHF and Sea Survival certification, will circumnavigate with another crew member – who will also be powerboat trained – and there will be shore support too.

‘I’m currently studying for my Coastal Yachtmaster Theory, and I also plan to have my RYA Advanced Powerboat certificate and undertake lots of First Aid training before the challenge starts from Lyme Regis in July,’ said Harry, who is currently in the Navy section of the Combined Cadet Force at Wellington School in Somerset.

Harry Besley started boating at the age of three. Credit: Harry Besley

Harry Besley started boating at the age of three. Credit: Harry Besley

If Harry Besley completes his challenge this summer then he will become the first and youngest skipper to have completed a circumnavigation of Britain in an electric powerboat.

The Round Britain eRIB challenge is backed by several key industry bodies including: The RYA, British Marine, British Ports Association, The Yacht Harbour Association, UK Harbour Masters Association, and The Green Blue, and is currently looking for sponsors and private investors.

Find out more at the Round Britain Electric RIB website here.

NOTE: In July 2023, the Round Britain eRIB Challenge Team announced it was delaying the voyage until 2024, due to delays in the boat’s production schedule.