Monday, 31 January 2011
Sodeb'O crosses the starting line off Ushant. Image copyright Yvan Zedda/Sea&Co.
by Kate Jennings
Thomas Coville, skipper of Sodebo, crossed the start line today, Saturday 29 January 2011, at 11h07’28 UTC. To beat Francis Joyon’s record, he will have to be back in Brest by 28 March at 0h40’34” UTC.
A week after Pascal Bidégorry’s crew set off on the Jules Verne Trophy, it’s over to Thomas Coville to head off to attack the rather different ‘solo’ round the world record aboard Sodebo. The skipper left the pontoon in Brest’s Port du Château shortly before 0800 UTC to cross the start line off Ushant, in front of Le Créac’h lighthouse, by late morning. His aim: to return to the same spot in under 57 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes and 6 seconds, the reference time set by Francis Joyon (Idec) in January 2008. The skipper has set off with "a good weather window for solo sailing and feels a sense of liberation at having taken the decision to set off. I’ve nurtured this moment for years. I’m heading off on this because I want to. The emotion stems from extracting yourself, making the switch from a landlubber to a sailor”.
Conditions at the start promise to be lively with a 25 knot NE’ly wind followed by fairly steep seas in the Bay of Biscay. If the forecasts are confirmed, the skipper could hold onto the NNE’ly air flow for a considerable time and even as far as the equator. As such, on the computer, Sodebo’s schedule is rather favourable. “This decision to set off was an easy one to make given the stability of the weather conditions”, admitted the Solo Atlantic record holder on the eve of his third round the world record attempt on this boat. “The weather models have been in agreement for several days and if conditions remain ‘vigorous’, the situation enables a quick and easy descent to the equator, which I could cross in about 7 days, which isn’t bad.”
Heading off again, the first victory
Thomas Coville on the pontoon in Brest. Image copyright Yvan Zedda/Sea&Co.
Since circumnavigating the globe alone aboard this same multihull (winter 2008/2009) when the record escaped his clutches by a little under two days, Thomas has gone on to win the crewed Jules Verne Trophy with Franck Cammas’ Groupama 3 (March 2010). He has also finished third in the Route du Rhum at the helm of Sodebo and completed a number of transatlantic crossings on this 32 metre 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.”
"I know where I’m setting foot"
“When you set off for the first time, you have to 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 you have to give of yourself 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.”
Last night ashore
At dinner time last night, the skipper of Sodebo admitted: “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.”
In Brest last night, his family, his friends, his team and of course his sponsor, rallied around him, but now Thomas is alone, alone for nearly two months. In an arctic cold, he’ll take up again with the stress of the multihull, which won’t leave him for eight weeks.