Hydroptere team takes advantage of winter season
by Thomas Lesage on 19 Jan 2013
Following an eventful year and a first summer spent in the USA, the Hydroptere team of Alain Thébault is taking advantage of the winter season to fine-tune their technological and sports program. The partner search continues.
Aerial photo shoot of l’Hydroptère DCNS, Alain Thébault and his crew (Yves Parlier, Jean le Cam, Jacques Vincent, Luc Alphand) during the first series of trials on the Med before trying to beat the Pacific crossing record between Los Angeles and Honolulu next summer. La Ciotat in the Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France. © Christophe Launay
In 2012, the winter was quickly over. Just sponsored by a French group, Hydroptere aimed to break the Transpacific Record between Los Angeles and Hawaii. The new geographical parameters required an upgrade of the 'F1 of the seas' to a '4x4 of the oceans.'
At La Ciotat, in the south of France, the technical team worked seven days a week at the metamorphosis of the boat. The carbon bird left France in late May. 'These were some of the most intense and rewarding winter works that I knew,' said Warren Fitzgerald, the Boat Captain.
Hydroptere started sailing in Los Angeles in mid-July. Unfortunately the weather was not appropriate; the only favorable weather windows were already finished. The team trained for a month in southern California and then went to San Francisco to greet the America's Cup World Series sailboats.
Hydroptere encountered up to three meter high waves and thirty knots of wind at 'Point Conception', the difficult part of the California coast. In the cold and the tumult of the Pacific Ocean, the flying trimaran went from the desert climate of Los Angeles to San Francisco fog. Apart from the wind angles, it gave the sailors a good foretaste of what they could expect on their way to Hawaii. The Golden Gate Bridge was passed at night, under the sound of foghorns. 'Wonderful memories. We were really exhausted, and despite the cold, we were all on the deck to contemplate the pillars of this red metal giant' recalls Jacques Vincent, co-skipper.
In San Francisco, the autumn was there but still no appropriate weather window to Hawaii appeared. The hope for a record attempt this season disappeared. Never mind, Hydroptere sailed in the bay and shared its technology with the American public. Some stars of the Silicon Valley and of the America's Cup went on board and the team of Alain Thébault took the opportunity to establish a small local record of 37.5 knots of average speed over one nautical mile. 'Just a wink to the competitors; we hope that this record will be broken and that we will be able to come back and defend it next autumn,' jokes Alain Thébault, skipper and designer of Hydroptere.
In early November, the title partner of the team for three years announced his early withdrawal. The postponement of the record attempt disrupted the schedule and no longer corresponded to its objectives. Before Christmas holidays, Hydroptere was sheltered in the bay of San Francisco and the search for new partners began.
The team of Hydroptere is currently working on a development program over five years with a double clear objective: offshore racing and pure speed.
In the short term, Hydroptere has to gather as much experience as possible in the Pacific and aims to demonstrate that sailboats can fly offshore. The Transpacific record attempt is still scheduled for the coming summer and this will be followed by a public relations campaign to introduce the trimaran to the public. 'It's amazing how this boat continues to make people dream; this technology still fascinates a lot. Hydroptere is the only boat able to sail offshore and to take guests to nearly 50 knot' says Yves Parlier.
In the medium term, the team wants to start building a prototype of pure speed, inspired by the recent works of Vestas Sailrocket. 'The supersonic sailing barrier was crossed thanks to Paul Larsen. Now the target has to be an average of 80 knots' explains Alain Thébault.
In the longer term, finally, Hydroptere 2, a trimaran that will be a synthesis of Hydroptere performance and of those of the best conventional maxi-multihulls, will aim to cross the Atlantic in three days and to exceed the legendary barrier of the thousand nautical miles in 24 hours.
'We have considerable experience in the field of foils and high speed. With these three challenges, we have enough to fill an ambitious program over five years. Technology and pioneer spirit will always be the core of the project. We take advantage of the winter to gather skills, to get various sources of advice and we are working diligently to develop a global roadmap. The objective is to get a first series of support before spring to consolidate the process,' says Alain Thébault.
Alain Thébault will be present at the Düsseldorf boat show (BOOT) on Sunday 20th and Monday 21st January, and he will talk during two conferences about the future of multihulls and the new challenges of high-speed sailing.