Broken: 50-Knot Barrier falls!

On 4 September, Alain Thbault’s hydrofoiling trimaran, L’Hydroptre, became the fastest sailboat on the planet, rifling off two impressive feats in the same day in France’s La Seyne sur Mer.

First, the flying tri registered an average speed of 48.72 knots over a distance of one nautical mile; then it fired off an average pace of 51.36 knots over a distance of 500 meters. Even more impressive was the fact that their top speed of the day was a tooth-rattling 55.5 knots… in 28 knots of wind (the boat sails so fast that it creates a lot of apparent wind). While these speeds have yet to be ratified by the World Sailing Speed Record Council, the official keeper of all records pertaining to sailing, there is now no longer any doubt that sailboats can sail well above the 50-knot barrier, and that these dizzying speeds are no longer reserved for kiters.

L’Hydroptre is 59 feet long, with a beam of 80 feet and carries roughly 3,700 square feet of sail area. The boat uses a pair of lateral foils that extend inwards from each outer ama at roughly 45 degrees. These foils create enough lift that L’Hydroptre can fly in only 12 knots of breeze. But, because of the massive amount of load that’s exerted on each foil (but particularly the leeward foil), each is equipped with nitrogen-pressured “effort limiters” (AKA shock absorbers) to shift or travel (up to approximately two-feet) as each foil encounters waves.

While L’Hydroptre recent achievements are mind boggling, especially considering how relaxed the crew—especially the helmsman—looks in the photos, the boat has not been without its share of mishaps and famous crashes. Still, now that the record is shattered, there’s little doubt that Thbault and crew are satisfied with their efforts…at least for now.

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