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A little history

Bruno Grelon, "Course of sand yachting", editions De Vecchi

The use of wind as a land-based propulsion force dates back several millennia. The Egyptians, it seems, were the first to try to apply this principle to their chariots. The Pharaoh Amenemhatt II of the XIIth dynasty (about 2,000 BC) is referred to as a "char-à-vent". The Romans also made some inquiries about this unusual means of locomotion. In 405 BC, Flavius ​​vegetius describes, in a book entitled Epitoma rei militaris, a wind-drawn chariot.

In China, it is also known to use the wind as a pushing element for a long time. Proofs are the "wheelbarrows", which would have been used for the construction of the wall of China, about 247 BC. The Chin Lou Tzu, written by emperor Liang Yuan Ti (b. 508), says that "Kaotschang WuShu succeeded in building a wind chariot that was capable of transporting thirty men on several Hundreds of kilometers in one day ". We even found an illustration of sand-yard that the specialists date from the Sung period (11th century).

In Europe, archives are dumb for centuries, until 1543, when it was learned that a certain Johan Friedrich had tried a "land-based sailing vehicle." This happened in Saxony, at Torgau.

The tank of Thévenin

But the most famous exploit, which has remained in memory, notably thanks to an engraving rich in valuable information, is that of the mathematician Simon Thevenin, born in Bruges in 1548. This engineer of the dikes, under the orders of the Prince of Orange , Count Maurice de Nassau, Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the United Provinces and Admiral of the Sea, wished to offer him a pleasant distraction "to soften the fatigues of the great and heavy tasks of the past."

The chronicler continues: "Simon Thévenin built a sailing cart in a marvelous way, where he and the grandees of the court sometimes enjoyed themselves. If you look at the wheels and axles, it is a wagon, but if you look at the helm and the sails and notice the wind is moving it forward, you will call it a ship. To have gathered these things, one must call it a boat with wheels or a sand yacht "(it is a Flemish text accompanying an engraving of the Thévenin chariot exhibited at the Museum of Newport and quoted by Willy Coppens in his Book Sailboats).

And the author cites the 28 people who climbed this sailing cart, and among them the ambassadors of the Emperor, the great lords of France, England, Denmark and even an illustrious prisoner, Admiral Don Francisco Of Mendoza, made prisoner during the battle of Flanders.

The craft had to travel an estimated distance of 75 kilometers in less than two hours, or 37 km / h.

But according to Jean de la Varende, who reconstructed a reduced model of this "flying chariot", the original actually reached 60 km / h and the axles ignited.

French wind turbine Hacquet

All this remained merely a game in which many inventors tried again during the following centuries. Thus history has preserved in particular the names of the Englishman Thomas Wildgoose (1620), Bishop Wilkins of London Duquet in Paris (1714) and the Spanish José Boscassa in Valencia (1802). The most interesting experiment took place on September 28, 1834, when the Frenchman Hacquet began to circulate without difficulty in the middle of Paris with his "windmill". This impressive machine was a sort of gigantic sailing coach, topped by several masts, 13 meters high. "The part of the military school took the wind from the south-west and crossed the bridge of Jena, Docks with the same wind, stopped at the Place Louis XI under the acclamations of many spectators and returned to its starting point in spite of a contrary wind ".

The principle then crosses the Atlantic.

At the same time, we find traces of such experiments on the rails. Sailing cars ride on the South Carolina Railroads and the Baltimore and Ohio Line. On board the "Eolus", the machine built by the latter, was mounted Baron Krudener, the Russian ambassador to Washington. Very impressed by this demonstration, he immediately made a copy to present to the Tsar. On the Kansas-Pacifique line, a railway engineer, C.J. Boscom, reached the speed of 64 km / h in 1878 with his sailing wagon

For the end of the last century, the documentary work of Jean Leye in "The Adventure of the Sailboat" offers us some additional references. It shows that in 1897, in Australia, in the Lake Lefroy area, sailing tanks were used as a means of transporting and transporting equipment. A photograph shows that of the Sorensen brothers, two blacksmiths of Scandinavian origin carrying material