Richard Branson's CFRP Water Car Breaks Record

21 June 2004

British tycoon Richard Branson broke a French-held record for crossing the English Channel between Britain and France on an amphibious vessel.

The Virgin Group chief completed the 22-mile crossing in a Gibbs Aquada amphibious craft in 1 hour, 40 minutes, 6 seconds earlier this week, well below the record of six hours held by the two Frenchmen who made the crossing in the 1960’s..

The entrepreneur, who set a trans-Atlantic speedboat record in 1986, was attempting his latest feat to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his Virgin Atlantic airline.

The Gibbs Aquada is a high-speed amphibian, can top 160 kmh on land and 50 kmh on water, and takes six seconds to transform from sportscar to jetboat. The British-built Aquada is powered by a 2.5 litre 175hp V6 engine with an auto transmission linked to the fully-enclosed jet propulsion system. The Gibbs Aquada, which sells for $115,000, can reach speeds of 100 mph on land and 30 mph on water.

The Aquada is built from two moulded composite sections packed with buoyancy aids front and back. It is said to be unsinkable even when swamped and comes with three bilge pumps in case water enters the cockpit.

Water resistant upholstery and carpets finish off the trim and it comes with a water-resistant radio/CD player, and a heater. Luggage space is about the same as in any sports car and positioned under the bonnet, the engine is mid-mounted and it is rear-wheel drive. The secret of the innovation is an underside that can skim across water just like a speedboat - and to achieve that the wheels have to retract into the body.

The Aquada is the result of seven years of hard work and more than 50m GBP worth of investment, and is the brainchild of New Zealand entrepreneur Alan Gibbs and his team at Gibbs Technologies based in Nuneaton.

Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic, today announced that the airline is planning to offer some of its Upper Class passengers the chance to experience the Gibbs Aquada when travelling to and from London’s Heathrow airport enabling them to beat the traffic by taking to the Thames. Virgin Atlantic plans to introduce the service later in the summer.

Alan Gibbs, Chairman of Gibbs Technologies, said “We are delighted that Virgin has so endorsed High Speed Amphibious Technology and sees the Gibbs Aquada as a perfect fit for transporting its Upper Class passengers. The Gibbs Aquada is a revolutionary vehicle providing a real practical solution to London’s traffic – and there’s no Congestion Charge!”

The first application of Gibbs Technologies’ patented High Speed Amphibian (HSA) technology, the Gibbs Aquada represents the first road legal high-speed sports amphibian, moving between surfaces at the touch of a button.

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