A record setting lap of Antarctica

8 Dec
Tomas Coville aboard Sodebo
While the recent focus in the sailing news has been on the boats racing in the Vendée Globe and the epic battle between Armel Le Cléac’h racing Banque Populaire and Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss, we are missing what is quite possibly an even greater story. I am talking about Tomas Coville aboard Sodebo vying for the single-handed, non-stop circumnavigation record. Coville rounded Cape Horn at the tip of South America yesterday and is currently turning his bow north as he deals with the strong currents in the Estrecho de le Maire, or the Straits of le Maire as us English speaking people like to refer to the gap between Tierra del Fuego and Staten Island, no not the one in New York harbor.
Coville is going after the record set in 2007 by the amazing French sailor Francis Joyon. The time to beat is 57 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes and 6 seconds and for now Coville and Sodebo are slaying the pace. As of writing Sodebo is almost 1,900 nautical miles ahead of where Joyon was at the same time into his circumnavigation. At the speeds Sodebo is traveling that’s well over three days ahead and with most of hard part, the Southern Ocean, behind him.
Let me put this into perspective. Tomas Coville is alone aboard a massive trimaran sailing through some of the most treacherous waters on the planet. The boat is over 100-feet in length (101.7 to be exact) and has a beam of 69 feet. That’s a big boat by any measure. The mast stands 115 feet off the deck and here is the big number; the mainsail is 3,050 square feet in sail area.  That is over 1,300 square feet bigger than those huge mainsails found on the VOR 65’s, in other words a full 75% bigger and the VOR 60 main’s are not small and are a handful to manage with a full crew. Did I mention that Coville is alone?
Since starting from France 20 days ago Sodebo has averaged 29.7 knots. Averaged. The boat has been peeling off days runs of well over 600 miles. A quick look at the “dashboard” on board Sodebo shows that he is sailing at 27 knots in 27 knots of wind and has covered 510 miles in the last 24 hours. The course that Coville sailed over the last few days had been well south of the latitude of Cape Horn in fact he got pretty close to the Screaming Sixties. The danger of extreme weather and ice had been a constant and there really was no good way for him to keep an eye out for ice and debris in the water. It was a high stakes game of Russian Roulette but he emerges from the Southern Ocean unscathed. In fact Coville has sailed over 19,000 miles without hitting anything and pretty much without incident. Let’s hope that he has a safe transit up the Atlantic and back to France. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with this man and what he has accomplished on this record setting voyage.
Note 1: For those who do not know, his sponsor, Sodebo, is a French company that (mostly) makes frozen pizza. Yup he is ‘pizza powered’. That just shows how mainstream sailing is in France.

Note 2: Sodebo wanted to get into the sailing space and they did a talent search in France looking to find a skipper who could represent their brand. And after an extensive interview process they settled on Coville and sponsored his entry in the 2000/01 Vendée Globe where he finished sixth. I once met the owners of Sodebo, a husband and wife team, and they told me that it was an extremely successful partnership and that they would continue to support sailing. In fact Sodebo is one of the principal sponsors of the Vendée Globe.
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Brian Hancock – owner Great Circle Sails

This article was syndicated from Great Circle Sails Blog


  1. Phil Adler

    Now this is a serious accomplishment thus far. Hats off to these people, and obviously the skipper. He’s been extremely lucky thus far, so let’s hope his luck continues and he returns to France safe and sound. Love the blog.
    Phil Adler

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