French government backs hydrogen boat development for America’s Cup’s Orient Express Racing Team

For the first time in history the world’s biggest sailing competition and oldest sporting event – the America’s Cup – has issued a protocol that requires each challenging team to build and operate a hydrogen-powered foil chase boat.

As one of the challengers, French team Orient Express Racing has seized on this opportunity to not only develop a boat for the race, but use it as a prototype for an all-green commercial motorboat designed to help keep seas clean.

The new model will be presented at the UN Ocean Conference in Nice in June 2025, and has the support of the French Secretary State of the Sea, following the signature of an R&D partnership agreement that will enable the widespread use of the technological elements of the hydrogen boat as part of the France Mer 2030 initiative.

You can read the full press release here and below.

Orient Express Racing Team has seized the opportunity of the technical challenge presented by the 2024 America’s Cup to create an all-green commercial motorboat designed to help keep the seas clean.

The French challenger for the world’s longest-standing sporting trophy is required to have a high-speed hydrogen foil boat (HSV) as their only authorised assistance in the race zone under the rules of the 37th America’s Cup, which kicks-off in late August in Barcelona.

As Stephan Kandler — the founder of K-Challenge which supports the French team — likes to say: “Competition makes you smarter.” Alongside the intensive sailing competition the HSV requirement offers a chance of real innovation.

Kandler said: “The first HSV will serve as a laboratory for developing version 2, which will be dedicated to the commercial market for coastal motorboats under 30 metres. This new model will be presented at the United Nations Ocean Conference in Nice in June 2025.

“Our project has the support of the French Secretary of State for the Sea, following the signature of an R&D partnership agreement that will enable the widespread use of the technological elements of the hydrogen boat as part of the France Mer 2030 initiative.”

Each America’s Cup competitor must have at least one foiling chase boat, powered by 160 kW hydrogen fuel cells, capable of maintaining 30 knots cruising speed for a minimum of 150 nautical miles, while reaching a maximum speed of 50 knots for more than one hour of sailing during the day.

K-Challenge, via its subsidiary K-Challenge Lab, has taken up the technological challenge alongside a European consortium to develop a 33-foot (10-metre) hydrogen catamaran flying on hydrofoils designed by French architect Philippe Briand, powered by two REXH2® fuel cells coupled to three 63 kWh batteries from hydrogen specialist EODev, and built by the Italian shipyard Bluegame.

“We have joined forces with a consortium that has been working with experts for months to meet these very precise specifications,” says Antoine Carraz, Technical Director for Orient Express Racing Team, who is in charge of building the AC75 race boat and monitoring the construction of the hydrogen boat.

“There are several major constraints to take into account. Firstly, the need to sail for long periods at high speeds; this requires performance that boats powered solely by batteries are unable to achieve, even on foiling catamarans, because of the weight and volume taken up by the batteries. Hence the need for a combination of solutions, including a hybrid system using hydrogen.

“We also know that the shape and total surface area of the hull in contact with the water is a key factor in terms of energy efficiency. Hence the catamaran. While the drag is less on a flying boat, we mustn’t forget the Archimedean take-off phase, which is very energy intensive.”

Like the Orient Express Racing Team itself, K-Challenge Lab has gathered technological talent and an array of skills to face the varied challenges of the future — here and now.

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Best wishes,

Sabina

 

 

Sabina Molllart Rogerson
International Press Relations
sabina.mollartrogerson@orientexpressracingteam.fr
+44 7922 140148