In France, a team led by Alain Thébault is preparing to break the world speed record for a sailing vessel. l’Hydroptere is a trimaran with hydrofoils. The current speed world record of 48.7 knots for a sailing vessel is held by Finian Maynard on a windsurfer.
In April 2007, l’Hydroptere broke two speed records, averaging 44.81 knots over 500 meters and 41.69 knots over one nautical mile. The highest unofficial speed reached l’Hydroptere is 47.6 knots. The boat is now being configured for pure speed with the aim of beating Maynards record and breaking the 50 knot speed barrier.
The original idea was born in the 1970s, when Eric Tabarly designed a trimaran on hydrofoils. However the idea was ahead of its time and had to wait for the development of composite materials.
l’Hydroptere made her first flight in October 1994. The 60′ boat is built of carbon composites and titanium to make her light and strong, weighing around 5 tons and with an area of only 2 square metres in contact with the water. The project uses a 3D flight simulator to help with the design and the boat is fitted with on board measurement systems, with the data recorded analysed to improve performance.
The team are now planning to build a model boat for testing purposes on Lake Geneva. Alongside this will be the development and building of a 30m l’Hydroptere Maxi. The aim will be produce a craft capable of extended ocean sailing and beating the current round the world sailing record.