[April 2015 update: the boat is now in Arcachon] On the southern edge of Arcachon Bay, the Port du Canal in Gujan-Mestras is home to a ...

Yves Parlier’s hydro-glider: resting in peace in Gujan-Mestras

[April 2015 update: the boat is now in Arcachon]

On the southern edge of Arcachon Bay, the Port du Canal in Gujan-Mestras is home to a number of oyster farmers, fishermen and ship-builders. It is also here that a record-breaking high-speed catamaran conceived by renowned Arcachon-based sailor Yves Parlier has seemingly been left to rest in peace in full view of all-comers. What is more, at the time of writing, it can be yours for €250,000.

Originally unveiled by Parlier in 2004 after six years in the making, the boat is the “hydraplaneur”, a 60-foot (18.28m) carbon fibre “hydro-glider”. She was designed by a partnership known as Aquitaine Design Team and manufactured by Chantier Naval de Larros (CNL). The boat’s main innovations were its twin rig with a mast on each hull (unlike on trimarans where the central hull supports the mast), and the “stepped” hull design, inspired by the use of this shape on seaplanes enabling the aircraft to take off and land at high speed.

Upon launch, the hydraplaneur, which traded under the name of its main sponsors, “Médiatis Région Aquitaine”, was hailed as Parlier’s “new weapon” and “extreme machine”. According to Yachting World, the boat was designed to “reach target speed of 35 knots for 24 hours, 40 knots for one hour and short bursts of 45 knots plus” (35 knots = 65km/h, 40 = 74km/h, 45 = 83km/h). Above all, Parlier wanted “a fast boat that will stay in one piece” so that he would not have to again endure what he’d experienced in a Vendée Globe race when he dismasted (he re-built and re-stepped his mast unassisted and still managed to finish the race).

However, pitted against trimarans the boat failed to perform on the world’s stage. Parlier finished four days behind winner Michel Desjoyaux in the 2004 Transat race, and came last in that year’s Quebec-Saint Malo race. The sailor then chose to focus on individual speed records but failed to break any throughout the whole of 2005 – although he did manage to capsize off the Canary Islands in April.

The hydraplaneur did eventually deliver on April 9th 2006 when Parlier set a new 24-hour distance record in the “multihull up to 60 feet with crew” category, travelling 597.81 miles at an average speed of 24.91 knots (that record has since been beaten by Yvan Bourgnon on his Brossard boat). The boat also set a new around Gran Canaria record (12 hours and 46 minutes). It was too little too late though. Lead backers Médiatis, Orange and the Aquitaine regional council all pulled out of the project and the boat, which was set to take part in the 2006 Route du Rhum race (where it was to be skippered by Lalou Roucayrol), was instead sidelined for good.

A few months later, in July 2007, the boat was lifted out of the water of the Gujan-Mestras port, from where she had set sail a few years earlier. And that is where the hydraplaneur remains today – at least at the time of writing – back on the grounds of the CNL shipyards. And since 2009, the boat has been up for sale, although the initial asking price of €300,000 has now been revised to €250,000.

Peeking inside the hull!...

Speaking to Sud Ouest in March 2012, a pessimistic Parlier acknowledged the prospective buyer would have to plough a further €100,000 into the boat to make it seaworthy again, and perhaps two to three times that amount to make it more habitable before adding “my boats have always enjoyed a second life. But I’m not so sure about this one.” (Mes bateaux ont toujours eu une seconde vie. Celui-là, je ne sais pas.)

The sailor is visibly downbeat about this failed chapter in his otherwise illustrious career but has moved on to other ventures, most notably a 100% natural-energy traction project which brings together a spinnaker (kite) to capture the pull of the wind, photovoltaic cells and batteries to store energy for an electrical motor for use in ports or for brief manoeuvres and, as on the hydraplaneur, stepped hulls to maximise power. Will this next project take off? 

 Video clips of the hydraplaneur in its prime:

Thanks to Guillaume for suggesting this subject!

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