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 is currently approaching Cape Horn at the tip of South America and will be rounding that famous Cape in the next couple of hours providing all goes well – which of course we hope that it does.
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 f 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 has sailed over the last few days has been well south of the latitude of Cape Horn in fact he was approaching the Screaming Sixties. The danger of extreme weather and ice has been a constant and there really is no good way for Coville to keep an eye out for ice and debris in the water. It’s a high stakes game of Russian Roulette.
So far Coville has sailed almost 19,000 miles without hitting anything and pretty much without incident. Let’s hope that he can make it around the corner and out of the Southern Ocean and then 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. – Brian Hancock.