Alain Thébault and l’Hydroptère team now have set their sights on the highest step of the podium, the ultimate prize, becoming the fastest speed vessel on the planet. It is largely a challenge full of history that has gained interest and passion for several years now. This challenge takes us back in time, reminding us of the beginnings of aviation, where many inventors and “Gyro Gearlooses” competed with each other in furthering the progress of trying to make their wooden and canvas birds fly.
The setbacks were many and often severe, but these early trials have led to the A380 and the Ariane 5 of today. The sailing speed record is above all a succession of contenders, a succession of cultures.
First of all, there were the speed prototypes such as the Crossbow 1 and 2 that reigned over the Weymouth speed competition in the 1970s.
Windsurfers then joined in this quest in 1986, with Pascal Maka, who established the new record of 38.86 knots. It wasn’t until the appearance of the Australian speed prototype, the Yellow Pages, in 1993, that the windsurfers were dethroned by a run at 46.52 knots.
This record made history and was not beaten until 2004 by the windsurfer, Finian Maynard, on the Canal des Saintes Maries de la Mer, a canal especially constructed for this race.
In 2005, Finian managed to take this record to the present level, 48.7 knots.
48.7 knots…a number to remember, the number of the record to beat today!
The speed sailing record is also an official authority that oversees these attempts, as it has since the very beginning, the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC), with a number of rules that must be strictly observed. These rules were established to ensure the accurate comparison of all of the challengers and thus guarantee the legitimacy of the established records:
Certified measurement systems, a product of the world of topography. In this desperate race for pure speed, a mere one hundredth of a knot counts. At this level of speed, one hundredth of a knot represents 10 centimetres. The instruments of measurement must then have a guaranteed centimetric precision in order to ensure the exactitude of the result. For example, a GPS destined for the public has an imprecision of approximately 10 metres, which could lead to an error of 1 knot on the average speed.
Measurement of the average speed between two points, separated by 500 metres in a straight line. This is a projected measurement, which means that if the vessel follows a curve between these two points, it would have travelled over 500 metres, but that will not be taken into account. This is the way it has been from the beginning, when measurement systems did not make it possible to take into account the real distance travelled by a vessel.
A measurement of the sea current, so that it might be taken into account. If the speed of the current is over 1 knot, then the attempt is nullified. If the current is less than 1 knot, it is deducted in the calculation of speed. Finally, and most importantly, the presence of an official from the WSSRC is required in order to confirm the validity of the attempt. The totality of the documents justifying the conformity of the measurements, the place and the type of speed vessel must be transmitted to the WSSRC so that the record may be officially recognized.
Thanks to these rules and the follow-up of the WSSRC, the speed record is today a trial of great maturity, which allows contenders from different worlds to meet, united by the same passion. We find the greatest international windsurfers trying to surpass themselves and beat their own records, kitesurfers, whose incredible progress in the last few years has shown their promise in attaining the absolute record. The speed vessels, with Macquarie Innovation, the worthy successor of the Yellow Pages, and the Sailrocket team, are notable contenders.
Finally, there is l’Hydroptère, our flying prototype, whose target speed was 30 knots only in 1994. After attaining the world record in Category D with a run at 44.81 knots in April 2007, Alain Thébault and l’Hydroptère team now have set their sights on the highest step of the podium, the ultimate prize, becoming the fastest speed vessel on the planet.
L’Hydroptère is the only sailing craft capable of sailing offshore in rough seas and on runs at more than 45 knots during pure speed trials.
To reach this ultimate objective, l’Hydroptère is now totally designed for pure speed, leaving the open sea navigation this year.
More info at www.speedworldcup.com