With apologies to super-heroes, one might ask ‘ Is it a boat? Is it a plane?’ The Hydroptère is a bit of both. The French-built craft, which appears to have been inspired by windsurfers, has just broken the speed record for a sailing yacht, by skimming across the top of the water.
It can do this because of the wings with floats on the end which keep it aloft once it reaches ten knots. When it reaches that speed, the foils under the floats are rotated to 45 degrees, lifting the wing off the water. Then, only 2.5 square metres of boat are in contact with the water – the size of a dining table.
Then, she ‘flies’ with the main wings five metres above the water, and can accelerate from 20 knots to 45 knots in just ten seconds.
She has just broken the record for a nautical mile, covering it at 50.17 knots. On a shorter 500-metre spurt, she made 52.86 knots.
So much for stately wind-jammers. Now the Hydroptère’s makers are hoping she will sail to a world record as the fastest boat ever to cross the Pacific. Next month’s record attempt from Los Angeles to Honolulu will be led by Hydroptère’s designer, Alain Thébault. Alain began work on the carbon fibre and titanium hydrofoil more than 20 years ago. It’s all in a name, obviously – Alain The boat…
When the hydroptere completed its hair-raising nautical mile sprint, the crew were understandably excited. But had they broken the record? ‘Combien?’ – how fast? And then ‘cinquante et un quart’ – ‘fifty and a quarter…’ Well, almost. High fives all round. You can see the record-breaking run on Metro’s website: http://metro.co.uk/2013/04/30/is-it-a-boat-is-it-a-plane-actually-it-is-a-bit-of-both-3708552/
More than fifty knots. No engine required.
The team are confident they will win the record for crossing the Pacific. With a sailing boat. But one thing has not changed since people first put a boat to sea.
Before deciding exactly when to set off in June, they will wait for the best weather…