French inventor crosses to Dover on hoverboard ...at the second attempt
Soaring above the Channel at 87mph on a hoverboard the size of a tea tray, inventor Franky Zapata made history yesterday.
The intrepid Frenchman completed the first successful crossing on a flyboard – ten days after his first attempt failed when he fell into the sea halfway across.
The 40-year-old left Sangatte beach in Calais at 7.16am to the cheers of a crowd and arrived in St Margaret’s Bay near Dover only 23 minutes later, having navigated the one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes flying at an altitude of less than 100ft to save fuel.
Zapata – who steered his hoverboard by shifting his weight with his legs – described the crossing, which included a midway halt to refuel, as ‘magnifique’.
Stopping to top up had scuppered the flying Frenchman’s first attempt at the record on July 25, when he slid off the refuelling boat into the waves 12 miles into the 22-mile trip. The inventor took no chances on his second attempt, using a larger vessel to land on and refuelling by swapping his backpack for another filled with 42 litres of kerosene.
Zapata, a French army reservist and former jetski champion, lifted an arm in the air in jubilation after landing on a small podium on the grounds of The Bay Trust Pines gardens on the cliffs overlooking St Margaret’s Bay.
‘i really enjoyed it,’ he said. ‘Visibility was not great but after about 10km [six miles] i could see the English coast. i was quite stressed when i had to refuel and land on the ship. it was quite big but of course it is moving in the sea so it was quite tricky.
‘i could see the ships in the Channel and had to steer around them. But to see the White Cliffs of Dover was amazing. it was beautiful. it was a wonderful experience. The main issue was my legs. it was quite painful and my legs were shaking towards the end because of the stress on them.’
Zapata, who was escorted by three helicopters, added: ‘i did not do this to get in the history books but this is something we
‘My legs were shaking’
will never forget. I am feeling happy and lucky. It was an amazing moment and I am just proud and happy for my family and friends.’
He built the device, which is powered by five small jet engines and can reach an altitude of 10,000ft, from scratch. Before setting off, Zapata said he had only a ‘50 per cent chance of success’ even though he had ‘absolute confidence in the technology’.
He added: ‘It is a boyhood dream. We want to follow a little bit in the footsteps of the pioneers of aviation.’
Zapata hopes his device will enter commercial production – for use by the military. The French military reportedly gave his company, Z-AIR, a £1.28million grant.
France’s armed forces minister Florence Parly congratulated Zapata, comparing him to superheroes the Avengers. ‘It’s not the return of Avengers, it’s the reality,’ she tweeted. ‘Congratulations to Franky Zapata who managed to cross the English Channel aboard his flyboard.’
Zapata returned to France using a more conventional mode of transport – by car through the Channel Tunnel.
Take-off: Inventor Franky Zapata leaves Sangatte yesterday
So far, so good: In mid-Channel, with a helicopter escort Intrepid: Zapata on the flyboard, its five engines powered by fuel from his backpack Journey’s end: The Frenchman, circled, flies over the White Cliffs of Dover. Below: He celebrates his success