Sailboat, Solar Plane Converging on Hawaii
The fastest sailboat in the world is expected to arrive in Hawaiian waters tomorrow in its attempt to break the Los Angeles to Hawaii trans-Pacific sailing record. This as the Solar Impulse plane is finally en route to Honolulu, after two aborted attempts.
The Hydroptere was designed by a team led by prominent French yachtsman Alain Thebault, who set the 500-meter speed sailing record in 2009 and still holds the record for D-class vessels (over 300 feet long). Thebault, co-pilot Jacques Vincent, and a crew of four Americans left Los Angeles on Tuesday, June 23.
The fact that two ambitious attempts to make ocean crossing history are converging in Hawaii is not lost on either team. Solar Impulse captain Bertrand Piccard is a “Prime Supporter” of the Hydroptere, and Thebault says the sailing yacht and the solar plane, “one driven by the wind, the other by the sun,” are both carrying the same message to use clean energy.
One of the anticipated challenges of the ocean crossing was encountering the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a floating plate of man-made debris said to be the size of Texas. The encounter was to be recorded for inclusion in a film denouncing the pollution of the ocean, funded by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, which is supporting both the Hydroptere and Solar Impulse missions.
The Hydroptere is a sailing hydrofoil trimaran that its designers say can “fly over oceans at a very high speed combining the leading techniques of the aeronautical and marine industries.” While the vessel can sustain speeds of over 50 knots (or about 60 miles per hour), its hasn’t found the winds they were hoping for on this crossing, reporting about 20 knots on Thursday.
The Hydroptere’s progress can be tracked online, and the last update this morning was, “Making up some miles. Foiling at 22 knots at 135 wind angle. See you Monday, kids.” The team is anticipating rough seas as they reach the Molokai channel.
As for the around-the-world Solar Impulse flight, the team is streaming live video from the cockpit on YouTube, with pilot Andre Borschberg now thirteen hours into the estimated 120-hour Pacific crossing. As of this post, the plane is flying at more than 29,000 feet, its maximum altitude, and on the livestream you can hear Borschberg breathing from an oxygen tank to survive at high altitude.
You can track the aircraft’s live telemetry data, including its altitude and the electrical energy stored in the batteries, on the Solar Impulse website. This is the eight and most challenging leg of the Solar Impulse mission. You can get live updates on Twitter, and on Facebook.