LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Hydroptère: Wings on the Water


The fastest sailing boat in the world flies above the water at a speed faster than the wind. reports from aboard Hydroptère at Les Voiles de St Tropez, and talks to its founder and pilot, Alain Thébault.

Is it a boat? It is a plane? No, it’s the Hydroptère, the fastest sailing craft in the world. Derived from the words hudor (which means water) and pteron (wing), Hydroptère literally means wings on water – an appropriate description, as what makes the Hydroptère so fast is the fact that it actually flies above the waves, bouncing off the surf to achieve speeds that are almost twice as fast as the wind propelling it. The 60ft trimaran is, according to Hydroptère’s founder and pilot, Alain Thébault, a real life “flying carpet.”

The product of over 25 years of research and development, Hydroptère is a feat of engineering and technological innovation. Above all, it is a lifelong wish realised: “I designed my boat for a dream, not to break a record,” says Thébault. Though enter the history books it has: first launched in 1994, it wasn’t until 2007 that the boat broke two world speed records. Even more significant than that, in 2009 Hydroptère exceeded the 50-knot sailing barrier – the equivalent to the aeronautical sound barrier.

More record breaking is expected to come. With support from private banker Thierry Lombard and Philippe Merk, CEO of watchmaker Audemars Piguet, this summer Thébault launched Hydroptè, a smaller vessel that has been designed as a floating laboratory of ideas where technology will be tested in advance of the creation of Hydroptère maxi. The latter will be a larger boat, conceived to achieve the remarkable feat of carrying a crew of 10 on a round-the-world crossing in 40 days – six days faster than the current record. From anyone else, this might sound wildly optimistic, but not from the man who fulfilled his dream of making a flying boat.

”l’Hydroptère is an extraordinary human and technological adventure and l’Hydroptè follows the same principle. As a lab boat designed to conceive l’Hydroptère maxi, this catamaran will help testing a new geometry and especially the configuration with two rudders. The objective of this hybrid sailing boat: The versatility. Sailing nearly as fast as Archimedean traditional boats and achieving higher speeds in flight. First on Lake Geneva, then in the Mediterranean and abroad, l’Hydroptè should give answers to precise questions related to flight dynamics and she will be an ambassador of the cross-frontier collaboration.”
- Alain Thébault, founder and pilot of Hydroptère, on the second craft in the series, Hydroptè

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