Paris – French inventor Franky Zapata on Sunday successfully crossed the English Channel on his high-speed hoverboard, nine days after a failed attempt saw him fished out of the sea.
Zapata took off from Sangatte, near the French port of Calais, at 8:16 am (0616 GMT) and landed at Saint Margaret’s Bay near Dover about 22 minutes later, after a midway refuelling stop.
The 40-year-old former jetski champion told reporters he had "got a huge kick" out of his final approach to the cliffs of Dover at what he said were speeds of 160 to 170 kilometres per hour.
His wife Krystel saw him off from the French coast as he soared into the air on his invention, the Flyboard Air, which is powered by multiple kerosene-fuelled turbine engines.
Zapata had put in 16-hour days preparing his machine for the new attempt after his July 25 debacle, when it hit off the boat-mounted refuelling platform and he lost control and ended up in the water.
Les images de l’exploit de Franky Zapata depuis les hélicoptères qui le suivaient au-dessus de la Manche pic.twitter.com/hXow2cKuWp
— BFMTV (@BFMTV) August 4, 2019
As he descended onto a landing platform above the cliffs at Saint Margaret’s Bay after the 35-kilometre crossing, he raised his fist in the air and then embraced an assistant.
Elated as he spoke to press, he broke down in tears minutes afterwards when he took a phone call from his young son.
Zapata said he was tired: "I want a holiday, but above all I want to thank my team."
It was "a perfect day," Krystel Zapata told reporters on the other side of the Channel. "Franky’s not the type for parties but I think we’re going to celebrate this all the same with the team."
The inventor told reporters that he had begun to feel sore as he approached the English coast but forced himself to enjoy the end of the flight.
"I put on another 20 kilometres per hour and really, there, the last five or 10 kilometres, I got a huge kick out of it," he said. "It was crazy, really, to see the coast getting closer like that."
Zapata and his Flyboard Air first hit world headlines last month when he took part in a display of new military technology at the Bastille Day parade in Paris.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel looked on as he swooped and hovered high over the city’s central Place de la Concorde, clutching a rifle.
French Defence Minister Florence Parly took to Twitter to congratulate Zapata on his latest feat with a reference to Hollywood superheroes.
"It’s not the return of the Avengers – it’s reality," Parly tweeted.
The Channel crossing, even though he did it in two stretches, by far beats the almost 2.3-kilometre flight that won Zapata a Guinness World Record in 2016 for the longest ever hoverboard flight.
"Today I want to say that nobody on our team will forget this moment," Zapata said in an emotional press conference after returning to French soil. "It is engraved on our hearts forever."
The night before his successful second attempt at the crossing, he got a "tough" message from his young son that prompted him to recheck all his equipment and precautions, he told press.
"You ask yourself: ‘Am I not going too far?’ I have the right to achieve my dreams but I don’t have the right to destroy his," Zapata said.