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Daredevil French flyboarder attempts to cross the Channel in less than 20 minutes

A French inventor is to attempt to cross the Channel on Thursday using the hoverboard that wowed television audiences around the world when he flew over the Bastille Day parade in Paris.

Mr Zapata, 40, former jet-ski champion, aims to become the first man to make the 20-minute crossing on a turbo-powered hoverboard, which he has spent a decade developing.

He will attempt the crossing on the 110th anniversary of the first cross-Channel aircraft flight by the French aviation pioneer, Louis Blériot.    

Mr Zapata, nicknamed “Flyman” by French media, says the Channel crossing is his toughest challenge yet and will stretch the capabilities of his “Flyboard Air” to the maximum.  

He is expected to take off from a beach at Sangatte, near Calais, and is to land near Dover. 

Mr Zapata has been nicknamed "Le Rocketman"Credit:
Michel Spingler

He will refuel halfway across, landing on a vessel in mid-Channel to change the 37kg backpack containing kerosene for the Flyboard. On Wednesday he acknowledged that it was a perilous venture.

“It’s a busy ferry lane. I’ll land on a boat in the middle of the Channel, change my bag and take off again immediately.”

He added: “I can’t afford the slightest slip over the sea and I put my chance of success at about 30 per cent.” Asked if he was ready, he said: “As ready as we can be.”

He said he had doubled the autonomy of his Flyboard. “I’ve always been a fan of Blériot and I was looking for a new challenge. If we can cross the Channel on the 110th anniversary it will be wonderful… It’s a crazy challenge.”

The Flyboard became famous during the Bastille Day parade in ParisCredit:
LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images

He said he wanted to “follow in the footsteps of the great aviation pioneers”.

The French authorities initially warned him not to make the attempt, but relented and approved the flight after he gave details of his safety and refuelling plan.

Mr Zapata, from Marseille, said he lost two fingers torn off in the turbines when he made his first Flyboard flight three years ago. “The machine crashed into the wall of my workshop. After that, I really had to negotiate with my wife for her to let me get back on it.” 

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