French sailor Thomas Coville set off on Saturday 29 January in the morning, offshore of the Créac’h lighthouse on Ushant, a French Island in the English Channel to try, for the second time, to best the record of fellow Frenchman Francis Joyon for a solo round world voyage, set in 2005 at 59+ days. In 2008, he had made the attempt, missing by two days. Since then he had worked on his boat Sodebo, making her faster, stronger. Finally in January, he thought he had a chance.
The weather, however, had other ideas. In the Pacific it was against him, but by the time he rounded Cape Horn he had caught up much lost time and the record was within his grasp. However, again the weather didn't play ball.
His blog records, with an elegance of words and a graciousness of style, the manner of his finish as he conceded defeat: For the last section of the course, time turns against the record hunter. The desired nudge in the right direction from a not very conciliatory weather doesn’t happen. The anticyclone is entirely barring the way towards Europe, sprawled from one side of the Atlantic Ocean to the other, forcing Thomas to further extend his course and causing him to carve out a path to the NW whilst Francis was able to head directly towards the Azores. The lows are rolling across very far – too far – to the North and the die is cast. There won’t be a miracle. For his third attempt and his second complete solo circumnavigation aboard Sodebo, Thomas no longer has a chance of making it back to Ushant in time. For over 50 days, the sailor has put up a creditable performance; he has never given up or shied away from any kind of difficulty. Like all athletes, he has overcome the hurdles one by one. Along with his routers, he has carved out a fabulous route on the world map.
'There is no second, your Majesty!'
On 22 August 1851, America, helmed by John Cox Stevens, President of the New York Yacht-Club, dominated the British armada in home waters, under the watchful gaze of a large crowd who had come to witness the confrontation in the presence of Queen Victoria. When the Queen asked to know who was second, he gave what remains a famous reply: 'There is no second, your Majesty'. The answer came at the end of the first challenge which gave rise to the America’s Cup and perfectly sums up the mindset of the top level sportsman and competitor that Thomas Coville is.
Like the America’s Cup, albeit in an entirely different style, records don’t reward those that come in second. The weather decides; time chasers know that. They must accept it, even though it comes as a great frustration and a immense disappointment for Tom as well as for Sodebo, who are still as proud as they have ever been to support their skipper in his extraordinary adventures.
Indeed, you must never forget that the solo circumnavigation of the globe on a multihull without stopovers and without assistance belongs to a universe which is difficult for ordinary mortals to understand and grasp: that of extreme sport.
Today Francis Joyon remains the fastest man to sail solo around the world.
Thomas is due to arrive off Ushant sometime on Thursday this week.