A Franco-Swiss invention has become the first sailboat to break the 50-knot speed barrier over 500 metres and a nautical mile.
Hydroptère, a hydrofoil vessel created by Frenchman Alain Thébault, sailing enthusiast Thierry Lombard and the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL,Switzerland), last year broke through the speed barrier for the first time at up to 56.3 knots.
The boat needed to repeat the attempt again in 2009 in order to claim the speed record. In the attempt in Hyères, France, the boat averaged 51.36 knots over 500m and peaked at 55.5 knots.
Hydroptère already has several world speed records to her name and travels more than twice as fast as a single-hull sailboat such as Alinghi.
The Hydroptère concept is to minimize the friction from the water and waves. With the wind blowing at only 12 knots, the hull of the 24.5-meter wide vessel lifts almost 1.5 meters above the water, skimming the surface of the waves with the tips of her wings.
These two hydrofoils set at angles on the Hydroptère’s arms provide side stability, while a foil on the rear of the central hull acts as the rudder. An on-board computer linked to sensors analyses stress on the hull, hydrofoils and other components.
A clip of the vessel under sail is visible here.