Lightning strike hits Sodeb'O off Portugal


Less than 24 hours after leaving Ushant, Thomas Coville on the maxi-trimaran Sodeb'O has already left Cape Finisterre in its wake and is currently skirting around a depression to the West of Portugal.

At 15:30 hours UTC, the trimaran had covered over 400 miles, at an average speed of 21.9 knots. The weather has kept its promise. After a bracing night and an unscheduled 'lightning strike' at dawn, Thomas Coville is preparing to tackle 45-50 knots of wind in the coming hours, with waves of 5 to 6 metres.

His voice was clear from the sea. The clock has been ticking since 18h43’21’’UTC last night and the skipper of Sodeb’O is already settled into the skin of a solo sailor: 'after the line, my head felt like it was in a vice with all the emotion of the start. My manœuvres weren’t very brilliant, but I quickly entered 'my' world and you really have to. You have to be in the game straightaway, otherwise you can soon make a mistake.'

Lightning strikes the mast

Despite the demands of the weather window chosen by Thomas and his team, the 105 foot trimaran has traced a perfect diagonal through the Bay of Biscay, in an ENE’ly wind, oscillating between 17 and 31 knots. Added to the short seas and the shipping, the skipper hasn’t slept and most importantly got a massive shock at daybreak:

'around 05:30 UTC this morning, we passed under a big cluster of clouds with 45 knots of wind in the squall and the head of the mast was struck by lightning! It 'scorched' the mast wand but a fuse protected the electronics and the instruments. I can’t understand why but it could have been a lot worse. I will climb up and change the mast wand as soon as conditions allow.'

Hand to hand combat in view

A calm spell enabled Thomas to sleep for the first time this afternoon and prepare for the approach of a centre of depression, which he is rounding off the Portuguese coast. The wind may gust to 50 knots, with a gybe necessary in the middle of the night:

'the temperature has risen to 14 degrees, so it’s more pleasant now. I’m currently charging the onboard batteries. I'm going to sleep again this afternoon and my meal for this evening is already prepared. From the start of this record, we knew we'd have two difficult nights ahead of us before finding a more classic weather situation again. This will influence a number of things on the next stage of the course.'

Despite this ‘harsh’ introduction, the skipper is 'happy aboard this boat, which never comes to a standstill in a wave, instead passing effortlessly through the water in a movement which is always very beautiful to see. It makes me feel really serene and confident, even with a lot of sail aloft.'

WEATHER: a depression in sight as the boat exits the Bay of Biscay

After a lively night with numerous squalls of over 40 knots and short seas, the trimaran is continuing to cross the Bay of Biscay at high speed. Ahead of Sodeb'O’s bows, a depression is in the process of filling in off Portugal, generating winds of 30/35 knots with gusts reaching 45/50 knots.

Thomas Coville’s strategy is to round to the North of this depression and thus remain in downwind conditions and maintain high speeds. In order to achieve this he will have to gybe – turn with the wind on the tail – midway through tonight. The motorway –the sea- remains extremely pitted with 5 to 6 metre troughs. Richard Silvani - Météo France -