L'Hydroptere and DCNS
Over the winter there has been a split between Alain Thébault's speed record breaking L'Hydroptère campaign and the team in Switzerland, Hydroptere Suisse SA, which is developing the 35ft foiling catamaran, L'Hydroptère.ch.
While the latter (below) is back in the shed undergoing modifications in Switzerland, so Alain Thébault's campaign has now teamed up with DCNS, the French naval defence and energy company, which for the last years has backed Marc Thiercelin's IMOCA 60 campaign.
In 2008 DCNS launched their Les Filières du Talent DCNS (DCNS develops talent) program, the first winner of which was French Figaro sailor Christopher Pratt, who sailed the company's IMOCA 60 in the 2010 Route du Rhum.
This year DCNS has extended its Les Filières du Talent initiative in conjunction with Alain Thébault, with the famous 60ft foiler tri being renamed and rebranded, l’Hydroptère DCNS. Thébault's main objective for 2012 is to make an attempt on the Transpac record from Los Angeles to Honolulu - vaguely following in the footsteps of Thébault's friend and mentor Eric Tabarly, who set a Transpac record, only from San Francisco to Tokyo in 1969 on board his 35ft water ballasted Pen Duick V and also raced in the Los Angeles to Tahiti Transpac races in 1970 and 1972, winning the latter.
At present l’Hydroptère DCNS is undergoing a refit in La Ciotat in the south of France. This will include some modification work to improve the tri-foiler's performance and handling in the Pacific. Her steering is being upgraded to make it more responsive in the downwind surfing conditions, while a new giant bowsprit is being added - 4.5m in length - to allow a larger genniker to be flown. The boat will also be on a diet with part of the rudder mechanism that was in aluminium being replaced in carbon and the generator to be swapped for a smaller alternative. The structure of the boat is also being beefed up to accept the new modified and enlarged sail plan.
The refit is due to be completed in May after which the schedule is for four weeks of testing in the Med before the trimaran heads for California.
As Marc Thiercelin did with the IMOCA 60, so Thébault will be bringing on board for the record attempt some new blood, along with former downhill and Super G skiing world champion, Luc Alphand (on the left above), who last year competed with Marc Thiercelin in the Transat Jacques Vabre. The latest Les Filières du Talent DCNS program is due to run until 2014. Under the scheme’s commitment to gender equality, joining the Hydroptère DCNS crew will be a woman and a disabled person (both over the age of 25), who will be trained by Alain Thébault.
Applications for these two spots can be submitted between 15 February and 15 March, the closing date for applications. On 15 March two female applicants and two with disabilities will be chosen. These four finalists will be invited to sail aboard L'Hydroptère DCNS in May. Two of them will then be picked at the end of May, to join L'Hydroptère DCNS’ crew and take part this summer in the Transpac record attempt. The applications can be downloaded here.