Following three weeks of trials on the Mediterranean, Alain Thébault’s l’Hydroptère DCNS was loaded onto a cargo ship on Monday in Toulon (FRA). The 'flying sailboat' will head to Los Angeles, California, USA, where she will be positioned to wait for the best weather conditions for a Pacific crossing record attempt.
Holder of the absolute sailing speed record over one nautical mile since 2009 (at an average of 50.17 knots or 95 km/h ), l’Hydroptère DCNS will try to beat the crossing record between Los Angeles and Honolulu this summer, record currently held by Olivier de Kersauson on the maxi trimaran Geronimo in 4 days, 19 hours and 31 minutes. This attempt is highly symbolic since it is the first offshore record of a sailing boat with foils.
After three months of intense work in the shipyards at La Ciotat, l’Hydroptère DCNS joined the Mediterranean in early May. Alain Thébault and his four 'corsairs', Yves Parlier, Jean Le Cam, Luc Alphand and Jacques Vincent, were able to achieve a first series of trial sessions with light to medium winds. Further trials including night sailing sessions will take place in California. The objective of this Mediterranean period was not only to get back to good conditions on the sporting side of the project but also to test in situ the changes done this winter on the boat.
Conducted by the technical team, with the help of the five corsairs and the 'papés' engineers of the project, trials were conducted off La Ciotat in sea conditions allowing to test the stability of the trimaran in the waves. With a good behaviour in the mistral, the carbon bird sailed up to 45 knots (top speed) and 30 knots stabilized in the swell in front of the famous 'Bec de l'Aigle'.
These sessions were also used to understand the positions of everyone on board and to repeat the first lines of a score that will have to be perfectly played this summer on the Pacific. Between Jacques Vincent, co-skipper of l’Hydroptère since 2005, Jean Le Cam, teammate at the time of Eric Tabarly, Yves Parlier, another sailing legend and l’Hydroptère addict from the first hour, and Luc Alphand, a former ski and rally champion , Alain Thébault knows he can count on a crew with an extreme mental strength. 'l’Hydroptère DCNS is a very nervous craft, every detail is important.
On board, we operate as a team of mountaineers, everyone is responsible for each other, trust must be total. These first trial sessions showed a genuine passion and a great mutual respect, we feel like five corsairs on a dream boat' jokes Alain Thébault.
This trust, the five sailors also need to feel it with the boat. During the winter, the technical teams worked on four major areas of optimization for offshore sailing:
- the boat’s loss of weight thanks to the installation of a rudder support in carbon;
- the extension of the sails' surface with the addition of a flying jib boom allowing the use of a larger gennaker;
- the modification of the foils’ profiles so that the boat cannot stall in rough sea conditions;
- and the development of a future rear tail unit control system by the 'papés' and the engineers of DCNS, which could help reduce significantly the rolling and pitching of the boat and thus further increase her offshore potential.
'We still have work to do on the control system but globally, we can speak of a speed increase of about 10% downwind with a much more stable behaviour in rough seas, says AlainThébault. So far l’Hydroptère DCNS was a Formula 1 of the seas, capable of sailing beyond 50 knots on sea surfaces as flat as possible. Today it is just the opposite; we optimize our Formula 1 so it can evolve as a 4x4 and start to tackle major ocean records. »
The flying fish should reach Los Angeles in about 25 days. The sailing sessions will start again as soon as she arrives and then the whole team will wait for the best weather conditions. 'We're off, l’Hydroptère DCNS is leaving the continent of her birth, says Jacques Vincent, moved. Some people still cannot believe it but it reminds everybody how dreams can be powerful. Now, let's stay humble and keep a cool head, the worst is to come!'
by Thomas Lesage
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5:33 PM Thu 31 May 2012GMT
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