French Trimaran to Put Transpac Record Attempt on Hold Until Spring

Byline: The Log Staff

Frenchman Alain Thebault’s hydrofoil trimaran l’Hydroptere DCNS will have to wait until next season to relaunch a transpacific record attempt from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

Ultimately, the record attempt, which had been tentatively planned to take place during summer, never got a favorable weather window to set sail for the Hawaiian archipelago, according to Thebault. However, Thebault added, he and his crew — including Jacques Vincent, Luc Alphand, Jean Le Cam and Yves Parlier — have every intention of making a record-breaking run next spring.

Thebault, the crew and the boat are currently in San Francisco, testing the craft in high winds in preparation for the cruise.

The ideal period to make the crossing is between June and August. According to Thebault, over the past two months, any weather windows that were identified wouldn’t have enabled an improvement on the current record time set by Geronimo, Olivier de Kersauson’s giant trimaran.

The crew said they missed their chance in July, as two weather windows presented themselves with the potential of breaking the record, but the boat was still in the process of being unloaded in San Pedro and still in the process of sea trials at that time.

“Of course, we’re disappointed,” Thebault said. “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.”

The 60-foot trimaran was originally created to challenge top speed records over smooth water — and it accomplished those goals in 2009, setting a world record for sustained speed of 50.17 knots (58 mph) over 1 nautical mile and a top speed of 56 knots (64.4 mph). Thebault and his team had to repurpose the craft to handle the strong winds and rough seas it would encounter during a transpacific crossing.

“In the end, we missed out on the mid-July weather window by just one week,” Thebault said. “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.”

In order to beat the current transpacific record, l’Hydroptere DCNS will have to better de Kersauson’s time set in his maxi-trimaran Geronimo. That boat made the crossing in four days and 19 hours. In reality, the two vessels are radically opposed machines with two different strategies, Thebault said.

L’Hydroptere DCNS measures 60 feet in length, weighs in at 15,000 pounds, has five crewmembers and skims the surface of the water perched on its 20-foot foils. Light and speedy, the flying trimaran has limited speed in heavy seas, due to its small frame. Geronimo measured 111 feet in length, carried a draft of 44,000 pounds and had 12 crewmembers.

For now, Thebault’s team is continuing its training in San Francisco and showing the technology aboard l’Hydroptere DCNS to the America’s Cup World Series teams and others.

In the coming weeks, the vessel is scheduled to be delivered back to Los Angeles.

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