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Emmanuel Denis Farcot



Alexander Graham Bell




HMCS Bras d’Or 400





Icarus de James Grogono




The forerunners


On 3rd December 1869, a Parisian inventor named Emmanuel Denis Farcot registered a patent for a boat supposed to go faster due to the reduced resistance in the water. The idea of the hydrofoil was born at this time, Emmanuel Denis Farcot having opted for the installation of numerous small foils along the hull so as to lift it up and thus reduce the drag.The Wright Brothers, precursors of American aviation, invented the first aeroplane. In 1907, they succeeded in lifting off the water a catamaran equipped with foils. Other attempts would follow. Italians, English and Americans would all embark on this flying sailboat race.

In 1918-1919, Alexander Graham Bell, the American inventor of the telephone, and his workmate F.W. Baldwin carried out new experimental work on motorised hydrofoils, called hydrodromes - HD or hydrofoil crafts.  In 1919, the HD4 prototype established a speed record of 70.86 miles/hour (114.04 km/h), which she held for over ten years.

For more than forty years, the system particularly attracted designers of motorised ships, who, one after another, would take on calm-water speed records. In 1951, another American named Wright achieved a real feat: he assembled two canoe-hulls equipped with foils, added a sail and set forth for a “flight” over the sea that would last for “quite a long minute”.

At the same time as Mr. Wright, another American, J.G. Baker, designed the Monitor for the U.S. Navy from 1950 to 1956, which achieved, according to documented information, the speed of 38 knots, an incredible speed for the time. Several years later, a Flying Dutchman was equipped with hydrofoils without modifying the structure. Her top speed was thus increased by five knots. Then, simultaneously, the Navy and the Maritime Transport developed a hydrofoil technique that had the advantage of increased stability and greater speed.

In the 1960’s, HMCS Bras d’Or 400, an experimental hydroptère, was designed by the Canadian Royal Navy for the detection of soviet submarines. 46.5 meters long, 6.55 meters wide, 19.8 meters of span with her foils and 200 tonnes are the technical characteristics of the motorised hydroptère which could attain speeds of 12 knots on the hull and 50 to 60 knots on the foils. This Bras d’Or was by far the most advanced of her era, but the project was abandoned, operating costs were too high and the necessary adjustments were too many. Subsequently, research would result in the production of smaller crafts. A French pioneer of hydrofoil sailing boats, Claude Tisserand, began studying this subject in 1964. In May 1966, trials were begun with the Veliplane I, a trimaran 4.50 meters long that attained 15 knots and demonstrated the possibilities of the concept. At the beginning of the seventies, James Grogono experimented a Tornado with hydrofoils, the  Icarus, that participated several times in the Brest speed week and established in 1977 a record of an average of 22.20 knots over 500 meters.

In the mid-1970’s, Eric Tabarly had already imagined and designed a trimaran on hydrofoils, but it was impossible to make her with the materials of the time. She would have to wait for the arrival of composite materials. In 1979, he built the trimaran Paul Ricard, equipped with a hydrofoil, on which he would, in spite of the weight of the aluminium, beat the mythical record for crossing the Atlantic, held at that time by Charlie Barr. Hydrofolie, designed by Xavier Joubert, was launched in 1979 for Alain Labbé and Loïc Caradec. At the end of the 1970’s, Roland Tiercelin launched Trimama, an aluminium foiler with three masts, one on each hull.

In July 1992, the American trifoiler, the Long Shot, smashed the world speed record over 500 meters, Category A, with an average of 43.55 knots.

In 1997, the French catamaran, Techniques Avancées, established a Class D record over 500 meters with an average of 42.12 knots, which she would hold until April 2007, the date of Hydroptere’s two world speed records.


More details on Hydroptere’s forerunners here (press article in french released in Voiles & Voiliers by Christian Février and Frédéric Monsonnec)

© Hydroptère 2014