Swiss navy conquers the Channel in a car
27 July 2006

Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it’s another mad European crossing the English Channel in a car. Last week it was Italian Maurizio Zanisi in his floating Fiat Panda, this week it was the turn of Frank Rinderknecht, boss of Swiss design company Rinspeed.

As you’d expect from the company that makes some of the maddest concept cars around, Rinderknecht’s vessel was a little more special than Zanisi’s modified Panda. The Rinspeed Splash is a hydrofoil – using retractable fins to elevate most of the car’s (boat’s?) hull out of the water, making for less friction and thus higher speed.

It seems to work: Rinderknecht made the crossing in three hours, 13 minutes and 47 seconds – making it “the fastest crossing of the world’s busiest waterway by hydrofoil car”. It is also, we suspect, the first crossing of the channel by hydrofoil, and therefore also the slowest...

“It was like a giant slalom on an alpine mogul piste,” said Rinderknecht. “The only difference was that it was not flexible poles we had to get round but enormous tankers and container vessels.” Well, that and the fact he was in a floating car, not on skis, and crossing the sea rather than a ski slope. The Splash is powered by a 140bhp, 750cc Weber Motor which can push it to up to 50mph, which in theory could make for a crossing tuime of under half an hour, but waves and shipping meant this would not be possible.

We’ll give Mr Rinderknecht the last word: “We Swiss are not just good at making the tastiest chocolate; we can also build the fastest hydrofoil vehicle in the world – even though we’re not exactly a seafaring nation…” Quite.

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