February 17, 2011

SPECIAL EDITION: L’Hydroptere Bound for the West Coast?

Alain Thebault’s L’Hydroptere achieves lift-off.

© Guilain Grenier

Although we haven’t been able to confirm it as of this writing, we have very good reason to believe that Alain Thébault’s 65-ft record-breaking foiling trimaran L’Hydroptère will be lining up with the already impressive fleet in this year’s TransPac sometime around July 4. Until American Rob Douglas took back the record for the kiters last year, the foiling trimaran held the speed record over a 500-meter course at 51.36 knots. While the conditions on a TransPac course might not be ideal enough to replicate those kinds of speeds, L’Hydroptère nontheless represents a significant threat to one of the softer records in West Coast sailing: the 5d, 9h, 18m, 26s mark for multihulls set in the ’97 race by Bruno Peyron’s Explorer.

We’ve been wondering when the attention that an America’s Cup on the Bay brings to the region would translate into attracting noteworthy international racing programs outside the Cup. If the rumor mill has it correct, that might just be now! Normally we try to confirm these things before blasting them out there, but this tidbit got us so excited that we couldn’t restrain ourselves.

Could L’Hydroptere be flying across the San Pedro Channel come early July?

© Guilain Grenier

The rumor doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch, given that Thébault and his team have been working on plans to build a G-Class foiler to set the Jules Verne record — they’ve already built a half-size prototype. The TransPac, a comparatively benign race course, would make for a good testing ground. Also factor in that Thébault was a protégé of the late Eric Tabarly — who sailed his 72-ft trimaran Pen Duick IV to unofficial line honors in the ’69 TransPac — and the idea seems even more plausible.

The boat will reportedly spend some time in the Bay after the TransPac. And while we wonder how it would fare in a lighter-air TransPac, we do think that it would be a good candidate to wrest the Ronstan Bridge to Bridge Race record from the boardsailors!

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