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Thomas Coville and Sodebo - A most extraordinary sailing feat

by Brian Hancock on 28 Dec 2016
Thomas Coville broke the 50day barrier for a single handed round the world voyage Thomas Coville / Sodebo
On Christmas Day the loop was closed on one of the most extraordinary sailing feats in modern history.

The French sailor Thomas Coville set a new record for the fastest solo, non-stop circumnavigation of the globe and he not only broke the record, he absolutely slayed it knocking more than 8 days off the previous record held by fellow Frenchman Francis Joyon.

That in itself is an amazing accomplishment but let’s just think about this for a moment or two. Coville sailed a 100-foot supertrimaran all by himself from France to France with a lap around Antarctica. He sailed in some of the most treacherous waters on the planet and managed to get back home unscathed; in record time.

His ride, sponsored by the French company Sodebo, has a mast that stands 115 feet off the deck. The mainsail is 3,050 square feet in area. The boat can average speeds in the high 20’s and low 30’s and can easily sail at 40 plus knots. I have been lucky enough to sail at 30 knots and I can tell you it’s a little terrifying.

The noise and vibration that you experience at that kind of speed is unnerving but when you are with a full crew you can take some comfort in the company of others. But when you are sailing solo it’s you and you alone that has to deal with the stress. Add to that, you know, and i am sure that he knew, that when things go wrong at that speed things go wrong quickly and the result can be life threatening.


Can you imagine a sudden wind shift in the night when you are trying to get a 15 minute nap, and the boat accidentally gybes? OK, I think you get the picture so let’s move on.

I have worked on two books about circumnavigation record attempts. My mate Cam Lewis was the lone American aboard Commodore Explorer when, in 1993, they became the first boat to lap the planet in under 80 days to win the Jules Verne trophy. Then in 2002 another mate Nick Moloney was aboard Orange when they set a new Jules Verne record. Their time was 64 days and their boat was a 110-foot catamaran.

In the space of a decade they shaved 15 days off the record. The crew on Orange were some off the best sailors in the world and their record time was considered almost unbeatable. Fast forward to yesterday, Christmas Day. Thomas Coville crossed an imaginary finish line off Ile d’Ouessant on the north west coast of France to complete his circumnavigation in 49 days, 3 hours, 7 minutes and 38 seconds. Coville, alone, on a smaller boat, knocked 15 days off the time set but that crack team aboard Orange. Extraordinaire…

For the rest of this story cklick here

A sailor with multiple round the world races to his credit - fully crewed and shorthanded - Brian Hancock is the author of the definitive book on sailmaking - Maximum Sail Power - and the author of the All About Sails blog.

For more from Brian Hancock click here

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