Crossing the Channel from England to France has had some bad press this summer – huge queues at Dover, trains stuck in tunnels, ferries being cancelled. But a new startup, SailLink, aims to offer an eco-friendly alternative – a pioneering wind-powered catamaran option for cyclists and pedestrians from Dover to Boulogne-sur-Mer – that it hopes to launch next year.
SailLink plans to start running its return daily foot passenger service from spring 2023 to late summer, with a crossing taking four hours. The one-way fare likely to be £85, which is nearly three times the price of P&O’s 90-minute Dover-Calais crossing.Additional routes from Ramsgate to Dunkirk and potentially Newhaven to Dieppe may follow. “This would be a new form of public transport,” said SailLink founder Andrew Simons, “and a serious sailing experience at the same time.”
The launch is dependent on securing sufficient finance and a suitable boat, but SailLink is being supported in business development by Blue Living Lab in Boulogne-sur-Mer, and with a mix of sponsorship, crowdfunding and a loan, Simons is confident the project will go ahead as scheduled.
A series of pilot trips ran last week – and I joined the first to depart Dover. We left from the charter platoon of the new marina at 5pm, landing at Chanzy quay in Boulogne on schedule four hours later; the catamaran’s sails bathed in the faint orange glow of a rising harvest moon.
Our boat, the 12-metre Mago Merlino used for the pilot phase, was licensed to carry just six paying passengers and two bicycles – but SailLink aims to launch with a larger vessel for 12 passengers and 12 bikes, with space for wheelchairs too. The company plans to adapt an existing boat in the first instance and then build its own,Read more on theguardian.com