Photos: Sea & Co

Thomas Coville sets sail

A week after Banque Populaire, Sodebo sets off to break Francis Joyon's round the world record

Saturday January 29th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

Thomas Coville and his maxi-trimaran Sodebo set out today on their attempt on the solo non-stop around the world record, currently held by Francis Joyon and IDEC. Sodebo crossed the start line today at 11:07:28 GMT. To beat the record, she will have to be back in Brest by 28 March at 00:40:34 GMT.


Coville's departure comes one week after that of Banque Populaire on the fully crewed equivalent of the record he is undertaking, the Jules Verne Trophy. The record he must beat is 57 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes and 6 seconds, which Francis Joyon memorably set in January 2008.

Sodebo left Brest’s Port du Château shortly before 0800 GMT this morning with the aim of starting off the line by Le Créac’h lighthouse on Ushant, by late morning.

Conditions at the start were lively with a 25 knot northeasterly wind and Coville can expect fairly steep seas in the Bay of Biscay. If the forecasts are confirmed, Sodebo should benefit from a NNEerly flow for some time, possibly even as far as the Equator. As such, on the computer, Sodebo’s schedule is looking good.

“This decision to set off was an easy one to make given the stability of the weather conditions”, admitted Coville, for whom this will be his third attempt on the solo round the world record. “The weather models have been in agreement for several days and if conditions remain like this, the situation enables a quick and easy descent to the Equator, which I could cross in about 7 days, which isn’t bad.”

Since his last solo circumnavigation of the globe aboard this same multihull over the winter of 2008/2009 when the record eluded him by just under two days, Coville has gone on to win the crewed Jules Verne Trophy with Franck Cammas’ Groupama 3 in March last year. He has also finished third in the Route du Rhum Sodebo and completed a number of transatlantic crossings on his 32m trimaran, which he has been constantly developing. “We built and designed Sodebo nearly three and a half years ago. We’re coming to maturity with this boat and the understanding I can have of it. Setting off tomorrow after having worked so hard is like a deliverance. I’m keen to make the most of what we’ve done. I also feel relieved of the weight of being able to get going on this as there are some winters that don’t have the perfect departure slot. Linking on from the Route du Rhum and the round the world with good weather conditions to set off in means that we’ve pulled off the first stage.

“When you set off for the first time, you begin by answering the question: 'Am I capable of doing it?' Having completed an initial solo round the world aboard a multihull allows me to know what I have to give of myself and how; it’s a lever which inspires me to return to it. It’s up to me now to complete it in less time. In our various projects, we make attempts, we fail and we work so we can set out again. I could have moped about it and never returned to it, but I’m lucky enough to be able to do it and that’s how you give yourself the means to write some great stories.”

Coville added: “For the time being I’m busy retranscribing the figures for the routing and the strength or direction of the wind, in terms of manœuvres and the way Sodebo handles. I’m not yet thinking about my life aboard. I’m going to have to extract myself and that’s a delicate moment. I’m a father, a friend, I have a social and sentimental life and I have to suddenly enter into another world. I don’t know another exercise which requires 57 days of concentration. However, this evening, as long as I’m not kitted out in my boots and foulies, I’m still a landlubber.”

All photos by SEA&CO - click on them to enlarge

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