A staggering achievement for the team but a close call
Three days after stepping off L’Hydroptere and after racking up a staggering 42.85 knots on one of several runs, I had still not come fully back down to earth. Two days aboard this legendary trimaran on foils had left me breathless with excitement and scarred for life. Scarred by the thrill of flying 10ft above the water’s surface at speeds that few have ever experienced.
At the time, skipper Alain Thebault and his crew could not have been more hospitable, eager to share their enthusiasm for a 15 year old project with us. Within minutes it was easy to see why the 10 strong crew were so hooked with this extraordinary machine.
Yet exhilarating though it was, the experience was, as always for me at least, tinged with a decent level of apprehension. Not only was the experience so out of the ordinary that it was impossible to anticipate what was about to happen next, but coming from an engineering background made it easy to see how even the simplest failure could result in a spectacular failure.
Once again, I felt like the whimp among the crew but kept my mouth shut and my smile fixed broadly across my face.
The irony is that on Sunday afternoon, beer in hand and close to a cosy pub fire, I was explaining just this to a long term sailing friend of mine and confiding in him how the level of fear increased in a number of steps as you worked up the speed range. Even the crew admit to this, although their fear threshold is considerably higher than mine.
I finished my conversation, and lunch, with the comment that the team was learning the new limits of the boat extremely quickly. Minutes later I discovered that they had discovered one limit the hard way.
A sad way to end the season for a team and a campaign that is right on the edge of setting a new world record. But, if nothing else, an indication as to how close L’Hydroptere is getting to taking the ultimate prize in speed sailing.
The March issue of Yachting World will carry a major feature on our two days aboard L’Hydroptere.
In the meantime you can listen to our most recent podcast in which we scorch down the record course at over 40 knots and skipper Alain Thebault describes the background to the project.
You can also read the news story relating to the capsize here.