On 23 August 2010, the Hydroptère.ch was unveiled at the Decision SA shipyard in Ecublens, Switzerland. It will soon be launched on Lake Geneva. In 2009, the Hydroptère, a 60-foot catamaran, became the fastest sailing craft in the world, surpassing 95 km/h over 500 metres and 93 km/h over one nautical mile. The new Hydroptère.ch will be used as a laboratory craft in order to prepare the Hydroptère Maxi, which will attempt to beat the most famous ocean records. The three boats, Hydroptère, Hydroptère.ch and Hydroptère Maxi will try to claim all the major records: pure speed, the Atlantic crossing, the Pacific crossing, and circumnavigation of the globe.
The president of the Hydroptère team Alain Thébault talked about the history and the foundation of the project, presenting the new boat and its principal main innovations.
”l’Hydroptère is an extraordinary human and technological adventure and l’Hydroptère.ch follows the same principle. As a lab boat designed to conceive l’Hydroptère maxi, this catamaran will help testing a new geometry and especially the configuration with two rudders. The objective of this hybrid sailing boat: The versatility. Sailing nearly as fast as Archimedean traditional boats and achieving higher speeds in flight. First on Lake Geneva, then in the Mediterranean and abroad, l’Hydroptère.ch should give answers to precise questions related to flight dynamics and she will be an ambassador of the cross-frontier collaboration”, said Alain Thébault during the conference.
Swiss watchmaking maison Audemars Piguet is one of the supporters of the project. Their CEO Philippe Merk said, ”This new ambitious prototype has also the same pioneer spirit as Audemars Piguet, which since 1875 has always extended the limits of its art through its quest for technological innovations, daring and excellence. This is not only the work of an enthusiastic, determined and experimented team that we appreciate with this partnership, but also the research and the implementation of innovative and revolutionary solutions. These are values that we share”. Audemars Piguet have strong links to the world of sailing. As early as 1985, the marque partnered Pierre Fehlmann, winner of the Whitbread Trophy. In 2000, it entered the America’s Cup with Be hAPpy, before playing a part in the magnificent Swiss victories in the 31st and 32nd America’s Cup. The marque has also worked with the Lake Léman races and regattas from 2007 on, a circuit designed for Décision 35 sailboats. In this area, the brand is teamed with Ladycat, winner of the Bol d’Or Mirabaud 2010.
The Hydroptère project began in the 1980’s under the double impulse of Éric Tabarly and Alain Thébault, with the help of scientists and sailors. Between 1987 and 1992, the dream came true. Supported and assisted by Éric Tabarly, Alain Thébault fine-tuned different models and designed a concept of a "flying boat." l’Hydroptère was launched in 1994. Her first "flight" was a real success. Many years of studies and improvements followed, where Alain Thébault tried to combine cultures and competences. At present, two new boats are being studied, one lab-platform, l’Hydroptère.ch, which will contribute to the development of l’Hydroptère maxi, a boat dedicated to oceanic records and a circumnavigation in about 40 days.
From 2005, the project has already reached many achievements. On 2nd February 2005, the Hydroptère crossed the Channel faster than Blériot did by plane; on 4th April 2007, she beat two world speed records. But it is on 4th September 2009 that she definitely entered the sailing history as she exceeded the legendary 50 knot sailing speed barrier - similar to the aeronautical sound barrier - and sailed at 51.36 knots over 500 meters with a top speed of 55.5 knots (103 km/h) in Hyères harbour (France). When she exceeded the wind barrier, l'Hydroptère became the fastest sailing craft on the planet.
The launch of l’Hydroptère.ch in autumn 2010 represents a new milestone in the project's story.