The fastest hydrofoil in the world must wait until Spring, since no favourable weather window opened up

Photo: Christophe Launay

l’Hydroptère DCNS will have to wait until next season to relaunch its Transpacific record attempt between Los Angeles and Honolulu. Their 2012 campaign, which has been driven at a steady pace, hasn’t offered up a favourable weather window to set sail for the Hawaiian archipelago. However, it’s a date that Alain Thébault, Jacques Vincent, Luc Alphand, Jean Le Cam and Yves Parlier have every intention of confirming in the coming spring.

Hydroptere set a new record in San Francisco Bay, sailing one nautical mile at an average speed of 37.5 knots:

They hung on in till the last minute but finally Alain Thébault and his crew – currently in San Francisco – have taken the decision not to set off this year. The ideal period to leave is June, July and August. Extended by several weeks in the hope of one last opportunity, the weather stand-by has been put on hold, as any opportunities during that period would not have enabled an improvement on the time set by Geronimo, Olivier de Kersauson’s giant trimaran.

“Of course we’re disappointed. In sailing, the race begins the minute you get into the preparation stage. We knew it would be tight. The campaign began late due to the technical evolutions necessary for adapting the trimaran to the conditions of an oceanic crossing. Added to that, there were some administrative difficulties to sort out to ensure the transfer to the USA went smoothly. In the end, we missed out on the mid-July weather window by just one week. It came down to very little in the end; a delay at customs and a few days lost in Panama… The shore team did a great job making up for lost time but the weather windows presented themselves at the start of the season rather than at the end. That’s the name of the game with a project like this! It’ll be a different story next year as we’ll already be on site, really raring to go”, explained skipper Alain Thébault.

In order to beat the Transpacific record, l’Hydroptère DCNS will have to better Olivier de Kersauson’s time on maxi trimaran Geronimo. The latter made Honolulu in 4 days and 19 hours.

In reality they are two radically opposed machines with two different strategies. L’Hydroptère DCNS measures 18 metres in length, weighs 7 tonnes, has 5 crew members and skims the surface of the water perched on 6-metre foils. Light and speedy, the flying trimaran has limited speed in heavy seas due to its small frame. Geronimo measures 34 metres in length, weighs 20 tonnes, has 12 crew and is one of the powerful, enduring yachts at seas.

“We’re light and fast, but half the size and hence compelled to use cunning as our racing strategies are dictated by different rules. Geronimo took the gamble of a November start. They benefited from some very good winds and thanks to its size, the maxi was able to maintain a good average speed without the constraints of sea state. In contrast our strategy involves a summer departure. The aim is to benefit from the summer’s thermal breezes to quickly get away from Los Angeles, whilst in November Geronimo was deprived of these favourable breezes and hence racked up some relatively low speeds at the start. At the end of the summer, the position of the zone of high pressure is at risk of extending our route southwards and the first autumn storms cause the sea state to deteriorate with cross seas, which isn’t very favourable for high speeds” explained Jacques Vincent, co-skipper.

Over the next few weeks, l’Hydroptère DCNS will be delivered back to Los Angeles.