francis demange

WATCH: This 'Flying Boat' Is Set to Break a Transpacific Speed Record

28 MAY 2015

Named the Hydroptère, this plane-boat is one of the fastest sailing boats in the world, and is set to break the speed record between Los Angeles and Honolulu in Hawaii this week, cruising at speeds of up to 83 km/h.


The brainchild of French architect, Jean Nouvel, the 18-metre-long Hydroptère lifts itself 5 metres above the surface of the ocean using its so-called 'marine wings' - or foils - which generate an upward thrust with a reduced drag when the craft hits 10 knots. It’s the same principle that gets aeroplanes up off the ground, and it allows this flying boat to go from 37 to 83 km/h in just 10 seconds, with only 2.5 m² of it still in contact with the water.

But don’t let all that smooth sailing fool you: the boat's wings are resisting pressures twice as high as what the wings of a fighter jet have to withstand. To make them super-sturdy, Nouvel’s team built them from composite materials such as carbon fibres mixed with epoxy and titanium. "To meet the laws of hydrodynamics, the shape of the boat has been optimised to ensure a greater efficiency of the sails while minimising air friction on the structure of the craft," Design Boom reports.

Describing how they perfected the craft over a number of decades at the Hydroptère website, Nouvel and his team say they’ve installed 100 sensors on board to measure the pressures and speeds it's undergoing. "The data acquired are modelled in a flight simulator to analyse every reaction of the boat and to improve adjustments," the team explains. "Thousands of calculations … reduce the problems of hydrodynamic flow: when Hydroptère reaches 50 knots (92 km/h), the water begins to boil around the foils, which reduces the lift and stability."

In an effort to raise awareness about climate change, Nouvel and his team will set out off the coast of Los Angeles this week and try to reach Honolulu in Hawaii in under 4.19 days. If they do it, it will be the second speed sailing record under their belt, with the craft hitting speeds of over 50 knots back in 2009. "We want that record," one of the crew, Alain Thebault, told the AFP. 

All I can think about is the technological monstrosity marvel that would come from these ambitious Frenchmen teaming up with this guy.