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Hdydroptere - The Trans Pacific Sailing Record

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Hydroptere - Hydrofoils & Flying Boats - Transpac 2013

Hydroptere is an extraordinary sailing boat that can fly over oceans at a very high speed - combining aeronautical and marine technology.

Hydroptere has changed direction to offshore challenges since its 2009 world speed sailing records - 500 Metre at 51.36 knots & Nautical Mile at 48.74 knots.

The ’flying boat’ is looking for partners to attempt the Transpacific speed sailing record attempt in 2013 and the launch in 2015 of a second generation Hydroptere designed to beat the North Atlantic speed sailing record.

Alain Thébault, skipper and designer of Hydroptere, said, ‘Our initial dream with Eric Tabarly was to test the concept offshore. In 2010 we decided to turn the F1 craft into a 4x4 of the seas to show that it is possible to fly over the oceans.’

What is the science behind Hydroptere? In Greek ‘hydros’ means water and ‘ptère’ means wing. Archimedes principle states that a body immersed in a liquid is buoyed up by a buoyant force equal to the weight of the displaced liquid.

To take off, Hydroptere has ‘marine wings’, or foils, which are placed under each of the floats of the trimaran. Once the boat reaches 10 knots these immersed ‘wings’ deploy at 45 degrees in the water. With the appropriate angle of attack the foils generate an upward thrust with reduced drag, which raises the boat like the wing of a plane. This is called ‘lift’ - the same principle that allows an airplane to take off.

The hull and floats of Hydroptere then fly 5 metre (16 feet) above the sea surface. Only 2.5 m² of the boat are in contact with the water and she is able to accelerate from 20 to 45 knots in 10 seconds. The result is the same in the sea as in the air - the higher the speed, the greater the lift.

The Hydroptere design objective is to design lightness and robustness. The foils need to resist pressures twice as high as those exerted on the wings of a jet fighter...

See VIDEO of Hydroptere flying in San Francisco Bay



To do this Hydroptere utilises composite materials, including carbon fibres, impregnated with epoxy and with titanium parts. To meet the laws of hydrodynamics, the shape of Hydroptere has been optimized to ensure the greatest efficiency of the sails while minimizing air friction on the structure of the boat.

The cross beams are equipped with strain absorbers, inspired by the landing gear of airliners. Absorbers allow the foil to be lifted during a strain peak and then to come back to its original position before the next wave. Hydroptere carries over one hundred sensors which measure the pressures, the twisting and speed. The data acquired is modelled in a flight simulator to analyze every reaction of the boat and to improve adjustments. When Hydroptere reaches 50 knots, the water begins to boil around the foils, which reduces the lift and stability.

Alain Thébault said, ‘Hydroptere remains an unidentified object. Our passion is to try, to experiment, to go where nobody goes. It is not always easy, but when it works people say thank you. With the Transpacific record we can open a new chapter in the history of sailing. Where flying boats, 100% hydrofoil sailboats, will cross the oceans.’

Photos copyright of CHRISTOPHE LAUNAY

Click images for larger versions


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