A French inventor has succeeded in crossing the Channel on a jet-powered hoverboard.

Franky Zapata achieved the feat on Sunday morning on his second attempt, after being knocked off balance during his first try last month.

The 40-year-old set off from on his Flyboard from Sangatte on the northern coast of France at about 6.17am for the 20-minute trip to St. Margaret’s Bay in Dover.

He had planned to complete the 22-mile (35km) crossing at an average speed of 87mph (140km an hour) and a height of 15-20 metres (50-65ft) above the water.

Zapata takes off from Sangatte

Crowds turn out to watch Zapata take off from Sangatte on Sunday. Photograph: Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images

Zapata’s hoverboard was powered by a backpack of enough kerosene to keep him airborne for about 10 minutes, which he had to stop to refuel halfway through the journey.

During his first attempt, in July, the former jetski champion fell into the sea as he attempted to land on a vessel to refuel. A member of his team said the movement of the waves required perfect timing and the landing platform had shifted a few centimetres as Zapata came down.

Speaking ahead of his journey on Sunday, Zapata said he was concerned his team had not had enough time to repair the machine after it was damaged in the first attempt.

“Normally we test the machines for several weeks before big events. Here, it’s a little bit worrying to be using a machine that has just been rebuilt,” he said.

Franky Zapata unloads equipment in preparation for the flight

Franky Zapata unloads equipment in preparation for the flight. Photograph: Sebastien Courdji/EPA

Zapata has been developing his hoverboard for the past three years, undeterred by losing two fingers in its turbines during its maiden flight in his garage near Marseille.

Zapata delighted crowds in Paris on 14 July – Bastille Day – flying over a military parade on the Place de la Concorde in the presence of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

His Flyboard has attracted the attention of the French military, which in December gave Zapata‘s company, Z-AIR, a €1.3m (£1.19) development grant.

AFP contributed to this report.


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