© Jean-Sebastien Evrard, AFP | French skipper Thomas Coville navigates aboard the Sodebo Ultim’ on October 12 off La Trinite-sur-Mer in western France

© Jean-Sebastien Evrard, AFP | French skipper Thomas Coville navigates aboard the Sodebo Ultim’ on October 12 off La Trinite-sur-Mer in western France

New Record : 49 days 3 hours 7 minutes and 38 seconds!

France’s Thomas Coville set a new round-the-world solo sailing record of just 49 days on Sunday, beating the previous world record by more than eight days.

Coville arrived at the finish line in Ushant, an island in the southwestern English Channel, at 5:57pm local time after a solo round-the-world trip that took just 49 days, 3 hours, 7 minutes and 38 seconds.

Coville slashed eight days off the world record when he ended his astonishing non-stop journey aboard the Sodebo Ultim’ on Christmas Day. The previous record of 57 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes and 6 seconds was established by another Frenchman, Francis Joyon, in 2008.

 Colville, who was sailing a 31-metre maxi trimaran, would rarely have slept for more than 30 minutes at a time during the race, remaining on constant alert for danger and changing conditions.

Coville set off from Brest on the Brittany coast on November 6. He needed to make it back by January 3 to set a new record.

In 2008, Joyon broke British sailor Ellen MacArthur’s previous record of 71 days, 14 hours and 18 minutes of February 2005. Her Australian-constructed, 23-metre trimaran had been specifically designed to accommodate her diminutive stature of 5 feet, 2 inches (1.57 metres).

Maxi Trimaran Sodebo skippered by Thomas Coville ( Photo © Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Sodebo )

Maxi Trimaran Sodebo skippered by Thomas Coville ( Photo © Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Sodebo )

 

 Thomas Coville sets off for his solo round-the-world record attempt. Brest, 17 January 2014. Photo by  Yvan Zedda-Sodebo

Under a southerly-southwesterly breeze of 15-20 knots and a swell at Ushant, Thomas Coville crossed the start line of his round-the-world solo record attempt this morning at 7h42’44” (French time). To beat the record of 57 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes and 6 seconds, held by Francis Joyon since 2008, the Sodebo maxi- trimaran should be back before March 15th at 21h15’50” (French time).

Being in the right place at the right time. This is the challenge of the start of this round-the-world record attempt, much-expected and desired by the solitary skipper, that has been looming three months for favorable conditions to get out of the Bay of Biscay, swept by successive storms. The skipper was also forced last night to postpone for a few hours his dockout to let pass a new gust of wind which made maneuvering in the port difficult .

Late-night goodbyes
It is at 3:00 in the morning, under the light of an almost full moon, that the trimaran left the port of Château. Meanwhile on the dark dock in Brest, one could see the shadows of some irreducible including Thomas’ wife and their two children, but also the managers of Sodebo that have been supporting the skipper for 15 years. Despite the rain and wind, everybody tried to greet a more determined than ever skipper, very focused on his goal. It didn’t take long for Thomas to head towards Ushant. Three of his teammates helped him hoist the mainsail before switching to a tender off the port of Camaret, located at the exit of the harbor of Brest.

 

Without transition
The first objective of the skipper was to cross the line before the breeze weakened too much off the tip of Brittany. The maxi-trimaran sailed upwind facing a wind of 15-20 knots which is never easy near the coast. After tacking to get clear off Ushant, Thomas will head south on starboard tack to cross the thalweg (area of ​​light breeze) as low as possible in the Bay. He will then, finally, catch westerly-northwesterly downwind conditions. He will be able to accelerate but must remain vigilant because of squalls forecast on his way.

Around the world via the three capes
After the descent of the Atlantic, the record-chasing skipper must pass the Cape of Good Hope (Southern tip of Africa) and Cape Leeuwin (southwestern tip of Australia) and finally the legendary Cape Horn (South America) before returning back to the Atlantic to cross the finish line off Ushant. It’s race against the clock of 21,600 miles considered to be the most demanding of singlehanded sailing. Only Ellen MacArthur, Francis Joyon and Thomas Coville have already completed it nonstop.