With the dust beginning to settle on Francis Joyon's amazing feat, heads are turning towards Médiatis Région Aquitaine, Parlier's new extreme machine which is set to make a serious impact on the ocean racing scene

Francis Joyon’s act of heroism for breaking the singlehanded gobal record by 20 days not surprisingly swamped the headlines this week leaving the news of the launching of Yves Parlier’s new catamaran slightly diluted. With the dust beginning to settle on Joyon’s amazing feat, heads are turning towards Médiatis Région Aquitaine, Parlier’s new extreme machine which is set to make a serious impact on the ocean racing scene.

This 60ft hydroplane with twin rigs was designed by Romaric Neyhousser, Guillaume Verdier, Loic Goepfert and Gregoire Durousseau of the Aquitaine Design Team whose brief included designing a boat which could reach target speed of 35 knots for 24 hours, 40 knots for one hour and short bursts of 45 knots plus. Yachting World’s Matt Sheahan met Parlier two days before the launch and talked to him about what he hopes to achieve. Parlier said: “As far as her outright speed is concerned, I suppose her max is probably 50 knots, maybe 55 would be possible, but this boat is not about breaking outright speed records. If we’d wanted to do this we would need to go for more aerodynamic shapes and possibly even wing sails.”

According to Parlier, who carried out an outstanding feat of seamanship in the last Vendee Globe when he dismasted, re-built, re-stepped his mast unassisted and finished the race, the idea is to have a fast boat that will stay in one piece.

Reducing drag was also key to this design. The stepped underwater profile of the hull, which follows the same principle commonplace on performance powerboats and sea planes, helps to prevent the water from sticking to the hull when a certain speed is achieved. Sheahan says: “By forcing the water to separate from the hull, the drag is reduced substantially. In the case of Parlier’s boat, once at speed, none of the hull abaft the step will be in contact with the water and the boat will ride on just 3m2 of each hull. Compared to a conventional multihull this means a fourfold reduction in drag.”

Extreme, ongoing experiments with the design of this hull has proved the theory that the forces generated through the sail plan and centre of gravity of the boat align make this a well-balanced configuration and easier to keep under control.

The twin rig is also an interesting one. Unlike on trimarans where the centre hull acts as a structural backbone for the mast, Parlier has gone for a mast on each hull. This is avoid structural problems that often occur single-masted catamarans where the compression produced at the mast foot has to be supported by, invariably, a hefty crossbeam. Parlier’s idea is to have deck-stepped, rotating wing masts but stayed only on their inner faces. A solid aerofoil profile spacer bar mounted at the hounds will link the two masts and provide support.

Sheahan also points out that by reducing the drag, less sail area was required and by dividing the total sail area into two rigs meant that the masts could be shorter which lowers the centre of effort of the sail plan. He said: “L’Hydroplaneur’s masts are just 24m tall compared to the 30.5m sticks in the current generation of 60s. This in turn makes for a more stable craft which also means that less beam is required to generate righting moment. Less beam also means less weight. The net result is a boat that is lighter, narrower and has less sail area while at the same time being able to offer big gains in performance thanks to the lower drag. At least that’s the theory.”

Interestingly however, as the boat approaches the speed at which the hull steps start to work the overall drag is higher than that of a conventional hull. But once the step is clear of the water the drag falls away and speed increases. According to Parlier the transition phase is around 20 knots.

If sea trials go to plan over the next couple of months Médiatis Région Aquitaine’s racing debut will be the singlehanded Transat in May from Plymouth to Boston followed by Quebec to St Malo in July. Parlier then has sights on the TJV in 2005 and the Route du Rhum in 2006.

To find out more about this extreme racing machine including other fascinating areas of design and what’s she’s like onboard, don’t miss Matt Sheahan’s special feature in the April issue of Yachting World. Click here to subscribe.