A Franco-Swiss invention has become the first sailboat to break the 50-knot (92.6km/h) speed barrier over 500 metres and a nautical mile.
Hydroptère, a hydrofoil vessel created by Frenchman Alain Thébault, sailing enthusiast Thierry Lombard and the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), last year broke through the speed barrier for the first time at up to 56.3 knots (104 km/h).
The boat needed to repeat the attempt again in 2009 in order to claim the speed record. In the attempt in Hyères, France, the boat averaged 51.36 knots over 500m and peaked at 55.5 knots (103km/h).
Hydroptère already has several world speed records to her name and travels more than twice as fast as a single-hull sailboat such as Alinghi.
The Hydroptère concept is to minimise the friction from the water and waves. With the wind blowing at only 12 knots, the hull of the 24.5-metre wide vessel lifts almost 1.5 metres above the water, skimming the surface of the waves with the tips of her wings.
These two hydrofoils set at angles on the Hydroptère's arms provide side stability, while a foil on the rear of the central hull acts as the rudder. An onboard computer linked to sensors analyses stress on the hull, hydrofoils and other components.
Last year EPFL and Thébault presented a small prototype catamaran which they are helping to develop, based on the Hydroptère. The new test boat, known as Hydroptère.ch, will serve as a model for a future giant catamaran, Hydroptère Maxi, which will aim to beat the current 50-day crewed round-the-world record.
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