Franky Zapata, a former jet-ski champion, had been hoping to cross from northern France to southern England in just 20 minutes.
But the 40-year-old fell into the water halfway across as he tried to land on a boat to refuel.
He took off from near Calais on Thursday morning and was heading for St Margaret’s Bay in Dover.Mr Zapata was not injured when he fell and later announced he was planning a second bid to fly across the Channel next week.
“It is a huge disappointment,” a member of his team told France’s BFM TV shortly after the flight. “He must have missed the platform by just a few centimeters. We practiced this manoeuvre dozens of times in heavier seas,” he added.
“We proved [to] ourselves that our plan is OK. The problem now is the refuelling, so we have to focus on refuelling and do it again, next week,” he told the BBC.
The attempt took place exactly 110 years since Louis Blériot made the first powered flight across the Channel in 1909. Mr Zapata set off from the beach at Sangatte, near Calais, at about 09:00 local time (07:00 GMT) on Thursday. The exact timing was dependent on the weather conditions and shipping traffic.
He was aiming to keep an average speed of 87mph (140km/h) while travelling 15-20m (50-65ft) above the water.Crowds gathered at the beach to watch the attempt. Shortly after setting off, Mr Zapata disappeared from view as a helicopter followed closely behind him.