Record-Setting Seabird

French sailor Alain Thébault is taking speed sailing to a whole new level, with an eye toward setting a new Pacific offshore sailing record aboard his hydrofoil l’Hydroptère DCNS—the same boat that set a world speed record of 51.36 knots over 500 meters back in 2009. 

At press time, the l’Hydroptère DCNS team was shipping the boat to Los Angeles, where they hoped to break the 4 day, 19 hour record to Honolulu set by Olivier de Kersauson aboard the maxi-trimaran Geronimo in 2005. 

Since setting its inshore speed record—which has since been eclipsed, barely, by a number of kiteboarders—Thébault and company have optimized the boat’s foils for rougher seas and added a “flying jib boom” to accommodate a large gennaker.

l’Hydroptère DCNS was [originally] a Formula 1 of the seas, capable of sailing beyond 50 knots on sea surfaces as flat as possible,” Thébault says. “Today it is just the opposite. We optimized our Formula 1 so it can evolve as a 4×4 and start to tackle major ocean records.”

Despite the upgrades, the boat remains a “nervous craft,” with seawater vaporizing along the foils when it nears top speed. “On board, we operate as a team of mountaineers,” Thébault says. “Everyone is responsible for each other, trust must be total…We feel like five corsairs on a dream boat.” 

For the latest on the l’Hydroptère DCNS project, visit  

Photo courtesy of Francis Demange/l'Hydroptere 

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