French sailor Alain Thébault, 54, nicknamed “the flying madman,” is co-creator of the Hydroptère. In 2008, this foiling multihull was the first sailboat to exceed 50 knots.
NauticExpo e-mag: How did the Hydroptère project begin?
Alain Thébault: I left school to windsurf and fly gliders, my two passions. That was 25 years ago. I had designed a boat that flew above the water and went to see some aeronautical engineers to build it. One of them said I’d had the same idea as the French sailor Eric Tabarly, and that I should contact him. That’s what I did.
His initial idea wasn’t a boat that rode above the water, but one with the central hull in the water and support foils on the outriggers to reduce their drag. He took me under his wing. I even did my military service with him, since he was in command of a frigate.
NE e-mag: Tell us about the construction of the boat.
Alain Thébault: To build the Hydroptère, we decided to use balsa models for a real-world reference. We began with small models. The first was at 1:8 scale and was tested on the Grand Canal at Versailles. Little by little, we increased the size.