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Is this the eco-friendly Channel crossing of the future?

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theguardian.com

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.

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