"AQUACYCLE PROGRAM" [1978 – 1986]
Conception - Construction - Optimization
Prototype 02 which crossed the GULF STREAM in July of 1981
The AQUACYCLE prototype which I rode across the Western English Channel in 1985, was the product of a unique development effort in a most unconventional field. Although the idea had been in the back of my mind for decades, it's finally in June of 1978, after winning two gold medals at the Florida Cycling Masters Championships, that I decided [with the help of American experts on the subject(s)] to go ahead with the design and construction of such an innovative watercraft which, in essence, would merge bicycle & marine-related technologies. This experimental vehicle would be christened “AquaCycle”. Over the years which followed its construction, it was also known at times as VeloCat or Aqua-C.
Did I intend at this time to challenge eventually the Gulf Stream, the Channel or, for that matter, other bodies of open waters? Yes, this was my intent, as this construction effort, heartily dedicated to the spirit of cycling and adventure, had no commercial ties whatsoever.
To put it simply, my goal was to build and develop/optimize a seaworthy, light, sleek and relatively fast prototype; the speed being closely tied up to my cycling abilities of course.
- Essential construction features: Quality, Safety, Reliability, Performance.
- The conventional cyclist position (upright) would be maintained. Despite some benefits, no recumbent concept would be considered.
- Given the nature of the challenges and activities planned at sea, two thin shells/hulls would ensure the stability of the machine.
- For reasons of rigidity and compatibility, a special aluminum frame would be built to fit the rider's morphology.
- Propulsion would be provided by an all gear-driven propeller system.
- The rudder system would be handlebar driven.
The all gear-driven propulsion system fitting AQUACYLE 04
which Yvon rode across the WESTERN ENGLISH CHANNEL
in September of 1985
CONSTRUCTION & OPTIMIZATION
During the eight years that followed said program implementation in 1978, several prototypes were built, each one incorporating some interesting improvements mainly geared at optimizing the seaworthiness, reliability and performance of AquaCycle. The first craft was launched in Miami on September 21, 1979, and the last one on January 15, 1986, just a few months before that accident which put an end to all my activities in this field.
Evidence of this evolution/optimization can be found when comparing vehicles N° 02 & N° 04 which I rode, respectively, for my 1981 Bahamas to Florida run, and English Channel crossing in 1985. If pictures do not show much dissimilarity between the two, reality was quite different though.
Although N° 2 took me across the Gulf Stream in 1981 (three years after implementing said program), it did not exactly meet, at this time, my expectations, as I was particularly apprehensive about the reliability and performance of the propulsion system. On the other hand, prototype 04, the Channel vehicle, which had been greatly overhauled after the 1983 “disaster”, 20 miles off the British coast, presented some new key features which rose considerably my level of confidence before confronting again the Channel in 1985; it had been fitted with a new frame, new rudder apparattus and also a new propeller with different diameter and pitch.
Furthermore, just before leaving Florida for Normandy on May 27, 1985, I had also tested a brand new propulsion system, achieving at last the level of seacraft efficiency I had been thriving for all along. The particularity of said propulsion system [an all gear driven, totally independent system fitted with crank arms, pedals and “push-pull option”] was that it could easily be replaced at sea, in case of malfunction or breakdown. For said crossing, I opted for the “pull” mode: propeller upstream of the flow, on the forward side of the “outdrive”.
All in all, from design and construction criteria, resulted quite a remarkable, performing prototype. The fine entry, narrow beam, long waterline, stiffness, lightness, stability, and a well conditioned cyclist too, greatly contributed to the performance, and accomplishments of AquaCycle.
In concluding, let me reiterate that to best materialize my concept, I consulted & worked during all these years (1978-1986) with a few experts and builders of marine products. In this regard, the special expertise and friendship of my long time buddy, Ted Riggs, were pillars of strength to the development and performance of AquaCycle, and to my achievements as well.
Below (Left) Ted RIGGS, Project Technical Advisor.
Below (Right): First launching of Prototype 01 in Miami (September 21, 1979).
September 10, 1985 (Above): Prototype 04 is back to CHERBOURG
after successfully crossing the Western English Channel.