Travel + Leisure - India & South Asia
MAN ON A MISSION
Pitting himself against nature in the most challenging solo adventures, be it swimming solo in the Amazon River or circumnavigating the Earth, Mike Horn brings attention to melting ice caps, deforestation, and clean energy. In a conversation with MITRAJIT BHATTACHARYA, the adventurer talks about his latest expeditions, love for cricket, and mission of introducing hydrogen-powered vehicles in the world of rally raids. How is your hydrogen project coming along?
The hydrogen project is exciting. I think this is bigger than Tesla. The application of the fuel cell that we have developed is outperforming other fuel cells that we have in the market today. This will allow us to access heavy industries. Cargo ships are the biggest polluters in the world today; what is happening to our oceans is terrible. Imagine taking out all those dieselpowered engines and replacing them with hydrogen fuel cells. You will have vapour coming out on the other side!
Are you on track to meeting your goal: delivering a 400HP hydrogen car at Dakar Rally 2023?
The fuel cell has performed even better than we expected, and we now have delivery of up to 640 horsepower. So, our goalpost has changed a little bit. We feel [that] building one car for the Dakar Rally will make less impact than commercialising this technology and giving it to buses, trains, planes, and trucks. So, along with putting this fuel cell into commercial vehicles, we will also develop 10 hydrogen vehicles that will enter the race at
Dakar, where you can pit hydrogen against hydrogen in a category. One year ago, we believed that building just one car was going to be an exploit, but now we see that this technology can make 10 cars. But that will take us until 2024.
You have a long-standing partner brand in Panerai. How involved are they in giving shape to your vision of sustainability with exploration?
I am fortunate to have a long-term partner in Panerai. They gave me the support I needed to accomplish everything that I set out to do. Talking about sustainability with exploration, it all started when I arrived in Philippines a few years ago on my boat, Pangaea.I had to change the radar, as I had this massive stainless-steel axe that went through the bottom of the boat. That piece had steered my boat 27 times around the world. I took this piece of metal out, looked at it, and said to myself, “Imagine if we could give a second life to this,” and that’s when Jean-Marc Pontroue, CEO of Panerai, said “Let’s try and do it. We’re not sure if we can, but let’s give it a go.” We carried the metal to Panerai Manufacture. Jean-Marc cut it through the middle, did an ultrasound test, and said
the metal was perfectly conserved on the inside. They decided to make five watches with it—that’s how Panerai’s journey towards sustainability started, with five pieces of the tourbillon Mike Horn edition.
Let’s talk about your first love: high-latitude sailing. Where have you been last?
The last trip I took was down to Antarctica. I love exploring high and low latitudes, because nowhere else in the world will you be so far away from civilisation and so close to nature. In these times of COVID-19, when we were so confined, this [trip] allowed me to go out there and find myself surrounded by nature.
Could you talk about your association with the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cupwinning Indian team?
I studied sports psychology and sports injuries as a student.
When I wanted to start working with sports teams, I realised that I didn’t have enough experience, although I had played sports. I needed to push myself beyond my comfort zone, needed to add stress to what I would experience in my daily life. That is when Gary Kirsten (former South African cricketer and then Indian team coach) contacted me and said, “You have all these amazing experiences, and you have studied sports psychology. Come and work with the Indian team.” I love cricket, I love the Indian way of playing cricket. They’re so creative, but sometimes they can get a little weak in the mind and get influenced. I thought, ‘They’ve got the knowledge, they’ve got the techniques, they’ve got the experience. Let’s make them mentally strong,’ and today, I think India is one of the forces in the world of cricket.
What is the most challenging exploration you’ve ever undertaken?
It was my first expedition where I learned the most. When I swam down the Amazon [River], I had no knowledge or experience and had to go out there and risk my life. I needed a lot of courage. I didn’t know if I would ever get to the end, because it was a six-month solo swimming expedition. I had to hunt to survive. Suddenly, you find yourself alone at that starting point and ask yourself if you really know what it will be like.
What’s your favourite travel destination?
Greenland for leisure.
What’s on your bucket list?
Space is exciting, 11,000 metres under the sea, and the unique experience of the Metaverse.