Zeppy 3 - Across the Med by Wind Powered Airship

15 November 2011    Editor    0 Comments

Preparations are underway for a 150 mile journey from southern France to Corsica in a sail balloon. High flyer Stéphane Rousson is planning to pilot Zeppy 3 across a stretch of Mediterranean waters using only the power of the wind and a curved carbon foil based on the chien de mer by Didier Costes.

The 65.6 feet long and 16.4 feet wide Zeppy 3 recently on display at Le Bourget in Paris is filled with 200 cubic meters of helium. An adjustable cable (from just over 65 feet in length to 164 feet) will run from the pilot’s cradle to the curved carbon foil skimming the surface of the water. The airship itself will then act like a huge sail, stabilized in the water by the chien de mer so that it can fly head to wind, traveling at up to twice the wind speed.~Gizmag

I first heard about the idea of a sailing airship in Bernard Smith’s Sailloons and Fliptackers. Like every sailboat, the sailing blimp operates by exploiting two moving fluids in shear, though it turns the sailing paradigm upside down: the weight of the cargo is born by a lighter-than-air “hull”, and the only element remaining in the water is the keel, or in this case, a tethered hydrofoil called a “chien de mer” (dog of the sea). It’s a wonderfully ‘Jules Verne’ kind of idea, and it has incredible potential. Thanks to Soothtapu for the heads up.

Note: This story is from 2010 and I haven’t heard anything since. Anyone hear anything more recent?

Stephane Rousson
Zeppy 3: wind-powered airship to attempt Mediterranean crossing

 hydrofoils / airships 


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16 Nov - 01:12


Great article guys!
Is really a pleasure to experience how this forum is moving ahead and the diversity of ideas that is offering to all of us.

16 Nov - 04:59

Wade Tarzia

Glad to see this. I’ve been writing a near-future science fiction novel—sadly in hiatus—featuring proas and the occasional sailing airship in a fossil-fuel depleted world. I think Dave Culp first told me about such fin-stabilized kites and airships many years ago. I hope this one will get moving (and maybe my novel too…). Thanks for keeping this blog open-minded even if centered on proas/outriggers.

16 Nov - 09:47


WOW.  I (like so many others) have mused on how to use a kite in opposition to an “underwater airplane” to drag stuff through the water.

But using a blimp as the sail and load carrier is absolutely stunning.  I guess I should have read Bernard Smith! 

That made my day.

16 Nov - 10:29


Thanks for the comments, trying to keep it eclectic!

Wade, you’d better hurry or your “near future” novel will be historical fiction!

17 Nov - 08:35


I have a question.  The forces in the line between the chien de mer and the blimp look like they want to rotate the blimp, so that the gondola turns out of the plane of the picture (towards us).  Which makes sense; if those mid-wings are the main drive producers they should be more vertical-ish and less horizontal-ish.  Or am I missing something?

17 Nov - 09:17


Chris, I believe the blimp envelope itself is the foil - a “lifting body” type craft, the wings are merely for control.

You’d guess it wouldn’t be that efficient, but apparently efficient enough.

17 Nov - 09:54


Ok, then shouldn’t the “sheet” be traveling through the center of effort of the “blimp foil”? It seems like there should be a straight line between the two sources of lift. Is there an aerodynamic situation where sheet wants to go to the bottom of the gondola when its loaded up?

17 Nov - 11:31


Maybe the craft does heel over when powered up,  so the fins, gondola, tether and chien de mer all line up - I think that’s what you are suggesting?

That would work, and the blimp envelope is tear drop shaped so it doesn’t really matter at what angle it is inclined. Hmmm. I’ll bet there is a lot about this in French.