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After suffering damage to his daggerboard and daggerboard well four days ago, Tom Laperche (SVR Lazartigue) has arrived in Cape Town, South Africa, and this morning was in a holding pattern waiting for the strong breeze to diminish to allow him to dock. His technical team are in attendance.

Ultim Challenge Leader Charles Caudrelier is going well and gybed north east to clear the Kerguelens, Thomas Coville is in a transition zone between two weather systems, Armel Le Cléac'h and Anthony Marchand are hooking into their first Southern Ocean depression and Éric Péron is making excellent progress on the direct, rhumb line course towards the tip of South Africa.

After a good night of sailing in a strong wind sometimes peaking at boat speeds of nearly 20 knots, SVR – Lazartigue has reached South Africa and the sanctity of Cape Town. Laperche had furled away his headsails and was under mainsail alone and was waiting for the wind to calm down to get into the harbour at Cape Town.

Thomas Coville, in second place, is in the east of an anticyclone, just behind a front which will make for a complex transition period for the skipper of Sodebo Ultim 3. 1400 miles ahead, Charles Caudrelier is still fast, averaging more than thirty knots all the time, Edmond de Rothschild is devouring the Indian Ocean, constantly profiting from very favourable conditions which, according to routings made by the race organization, could take him to Cape Leeuwin by Wednesday afternoon and to Tasmania on Thursday/Friday.

Tussling over third and fourth Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire XI) and Anthony Marchand (Actual) are sailing close together in the southwest of the Saint Helena high. The two rivals are trying to finally escape the clutches of the anticyclone and get on to a small depression coming in from the west which would finally allow them to find some speed. Éric Péron continues to sail SE and take advantage of the more favourable positioning of the anticyclone, he is romping down the great circle course, theoretically the shortest route towards the Southern Oceans.

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After suffering damage this morning at around 0430hrs UTC, when lying in second place in the Ultim Challenge - Brest, some 1300 nautical miles west of Cape Town, solo skipper Tom Laperche on the ULTIM SVR Lazartigue is heading towards Cape Town with an ingress of water under control.

The hard collision damaged the daggerboard case causing a significant leak. “I had been working pretty well all night,” reported the 26-year-old skipper this afternoon, “I had found good sail configurations and settings, and we were moving neither too fast nor too slow with a good average and speeds of around 35 knots. Towards the end of the night, I felt a huge shock from a big crash. Hitting the daggerboard damaged the bottom of the hull, and in a fraction of a second, water came into the central section. I walked around the boat quickly and realized that the boat was remaining controllable. We had to slow down as much as possible and furl up the sails. We must now bring the boat in as undamaged as possible.”

The damage has been stabilized, and Laperche is safe and being assisted by his technical team to try to bring the Trimaran SVR-Lazartigue to Cape Town. He was around 80 miles behind race leader Charles Caudrelier when the high speed collision with an object occurred.

“The boat was going well until then and was enjoying herself,” continues Laperche. “Now it’s super hard, for the boat, for me and the whole team with all these people who worked so that the Trimaran SVR-Lazartigue was at the start and that after ten days of racing we had been at the head of the fleet on a round the world race We now have to manage the next four days at sea without it getting any worse. I managed to set the boat up in the right direction and did not go too fast. I will monitor water levels and the daggerboard movements. We still have 35 knots of wind but it should ease in a little over a day with calmer seas. I remain in contact with the whole team and we will try to find the best solutions to reach Cape Town.”

Cécile Andrieu, the Team Manager, commented: “Tom is doing well physically. The impact was quite violent because the boat was moving at 35 knots at the time of the collision. It’s a hard blow for everyone because his race had been magnificent for ten days. But he is already very motivated to get his boat to safety. We are in permanent contact with him to analyze as best as possible the damage to the boat, contain it and find the best route to reach Cape Town where his arrival is estimated on Monday morning. The routing cell continues to communicate with him. The entire technical team is gathered in Concarneau and will leave for Cape Town to be with Tom. We will study the options for the future.”

Meantime race leader Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild) expressed his dismay and solidarity with the young rival with whom he had been duelling since the start. Caudrelier on the powerful Verdier-designed ULTIM had seemed to be threatening the 24-hour solo sailing record last night with a run to 841 miles, some ten miles short of the record set in November 2017 by François Gabart en route to the current solo round-the-world record of 42 days.

Change of atmosphere for Caudrelier

Caudrelier reported this morning, “Sad news this morning. Tom has announced he had a problem on his boat. It looks like the damage is serious. We’d been having a great contest, one that was incredible for someone aged just 25. I can remember what it was like when I was 25. But with a boat like that, I wouldn’t have been able to deal with it. Even now at 50…….pfft. To cheer myself up, I have gone for some monkfish curry. I know that Armel has some too, so I hope he enjoys his. And I took advantage this morning, as there is less pressure on me. I don’t need to watch the speed as much as when Tom was there. I took advantage to tidy things up and give the boat a bigcheck. We had been racing at a crazy pace. The atmosphere has changed now. And the way we sail.”

 Ultim Challenge race leader Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild) Photo: Yann Riou Ultim Challenge race leader Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild) Photo: Yann Riou

Caudrelier now has more than 700 miles in hand over third-placed Thomas Coville. The leader is at the front of a low-pressure front, which should push him at least as far as the Kerguelen Islands at the same kind of speeds in good sea conditions. This evening, the Maxi Sodebo 3 gybed to stay in the depression which he hopes to ride over the coming days to stay in contact. Fourth and fifth, Actual Ultim 3 and Banque Populaire XI will have to negotiate lighter winds. Le Cléac'h reported this afternoon, “I am offshore of Rio de Janeiro and the passage down the Brasilian coast has been long, we are downwind now and starting to get some breeze, I have 20kts now, it is still warm and I am in light clothing which helps when I have manoeuvres to do. But it will cool down quickly. We have to go in a quite southerly direction, and that is the programme for the future, it is a bit of a long route, but by the weekend, the temperature will be down, and we will get to the south. I am catching a few miles on Antho’ who is a bit to my east. It is bad news about Tom I hope he can get back in the race soon.”

In fifth position, Le Cléac'h is about 240 miles behind Anthony Marchand (Actual Ultim 3). In the sixth, Adagio, sailed by Éric Péron, is now into the southern hemisphere.

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The ULTIM SVR-Lazartigue trimaran, which is racing in the South Atlantic towards the Indian Ocean, is in second place in the Ultim Challenge Race.

Tom Laperche has suffered damage to the daggerboard following a collision that occurred last night at 4:30 a.m. UTC. Solo skipper Tom Laperche immediately informed his technical team, and he has been in constant contact with them. He is positioned about 1300 miles from Cape Town.

Organiser says the collision damaged the dagger board case, causing a significant water ingress, which remains stabilized. Laperche is safe and is being assisted by his technical team to assess the damage and organize the next steps over the next few hours.

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Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild) has opened a 70 miles lead on second-placed Tom Laperche (SVR Lazartigue) as the Arkea Ultim Challenge-Brest's two pacemakers contemplate their rapid descent into the Southern Ocean, set to pass Tristan de Cunha tonight, making between 34 and 36 knots with some 1,400 miles still to sail to pass the longitude of the solo ULTIM race round the world's first great Cape, the Cape of Good Hope.

Whilst Laperche, at 26, is set to experience the 'big south' for the first time, the endless grey and barren seas are a known quantity for double The Ocean Race winner Caudrelier. But it is the poetic Thomas Coville, just over 400 miles behind the two leaders, who is really relishing his return to the south.

"Sodebo is moving at 35 knots on very flat seas. The sun comes up out of the water. This means something very important on a round the world. That means that we are heading east. We now have this incredible scene where the sun rises right in front of us." He smiled on his early morning video.

After negotiating the west side of the Saint Helena high pressure zone, the former solo round the world record holder (49 days and 3 hours in 2016) has made his turn to the left.

Ranking at January 18th at 3:00 AM
1. Charles Caudrlier, Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, 18508 nm to finish
2. Tom Laperche, SVR Lazartigue, 87 nm to leader
3. Thomas Coville, Sodebo Ultim 3, 530 nm
4. Anthony Marchand, Actual Ultim 3, 1608 nm
5. Armel Le Cleac'h, Banque Populaire, 1830 nm
6. Eric Peron, Adagio, 2671 nm

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Racing 250 nautical miles ENE of Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, this evening, Tom Laperche leads the Ultim Challenge race by 54 miles from Charles Caudrelier. SVR Lazartigue was the first to cross the Equator into the Southern Hemisphere Saturday 13th evening, at 18:43:43hrs UTC. His elapsed time since last Sunday’s start line is 6d 6h 13m, and since the WSSRC record line at Ushant is 6d 5h 35m 56s.

Second to cross last night at 20:11:54hrs – so, 1h 28m 21s later – was Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild). Caudrelier’s elapsed times are 6d 7h 41m since the start line and 6d 7h 2m 54s since the WSSRC line.

On his 2017 record breaking circumnavigation Francois Gabart’s passage time to the Equator was 5d 20h 45m, the fastest solo time remains Thomas Coville’s 5d 17h 11m and the best ever is that of Spindrift 2 at 4d 20h 07m

Recife stopover planned for the Maxi Banque Populaire XI

Armel Le Cléac'h and the Maxi Banque Populaire XI are heading to the Brazilian port of Recife to the repair the pulpit on the main hull and to replace the tack line fitting for the gennaker after damage incurred during a problem with the J0 sail which the French skipper spoke of during a Ultim Challenge live broadcast yesterday. The pulpit maintains the safety of the skipper when he is working at the front of the boat.

With Le Cléac’h due in the Southern Ocean in a few days time his team say it it is imperative that this part of the boat is functional for the rest of the race. And during the pit stop, members of Team Banque Populaire report they will take the opportunity to also resolve a problem discovered on the hydraulics of the foil system. The boat is expected to arrive in Recife between tonight and tomorrow morning (French time) and it will be met with members of the technical team. It will stop for at least 24 hours as required by the rules of the race governing a stopover.

Ronan Lucas, Director of the Banque Populaire Team said: “With Armel we made the decision to stop, following the incident that occurred after the storm which deprived us of a large gennaker and, what's more, tore the pulpit off the boat. It is unthinkable to go into the Southern Ocean without this important safety feature for when the skipper is maneuvering at the front of the boat. And while he is heading towards Recife, Armel reported a problem with the foil up/down system which prevents him from using it and which reinforces the decision to make a stopover even with incurring a 24-hour penalty. We are all a little disappointed by this incident even though we did not experience a single incident during the Transat Jacques Vabre. This course is long and the whole team will do its utmost to get Armel and the Maxi Banque Populaire XI back into the race as quickly as possible.”

Racing since Sunday, January 7 at 1:30 p.m. on this first edition of the Ultim Challenge, Armel Le Cléac'h held fourth place before making the decision to make a stopover. The skipper of the Maxi Banque Populaire XI crossed the equator this Sunday morning and is currently heading towards the Brazilian coast. He is the first sailor on this race to choose to make a stopover.

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Passing through the Doldrums at speeds of the 22-24kts, Ultim Challenge leader SVR Lazartigue sailed by Tom Leperche looked set to be first to cross the Equator into the southern hemisphere early this evening.

The 26 year old has opened up about 20 miles on second placed Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild) today, the Gitana team solo skipper is now 24 miles behind.

Fourth placed Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire XI) – now 287 miles behind Laperche has revealed he had J0 headsail problems early on Friday morning which had slowed him. Le Cléac'h is some six miles behind Thomas Coville (Sodebo Ultim 3) but was, again, slowed to around six knots on the 1700hrs UTC poll.

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Passing some 195 to 200 miles west of the Canary Islands this Wednesday afternoon, the leaders of the Ultim Challenge are setting up for the first big low pressure system of the race so far, one which holds winds to 40kts and a front which they will cross tonight.

After making the best passage out of a bubble of high pressure and some very light winds – as gentle as five or six knots at times – Tom Laperche (SVR Lazartigue) has held the lead since early this morning, but the main focus is getting safely through the front and into the NW’ly winds on the other side first.

Laperche, at 26 the youngest skipper on the race, has a margin of about 14 miles over Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild) who has remained in close company with Thomas Coville (Sodebo Ultim 3) since early in the day.
“The low is quite deep and the further north you are right now, the windier it will be. And the wind is already picking up. So the aim it to get across the front in the best shape possible and then tack in the new breeze. From then it will be about finding the best TWS (true wind speed) and looking after the boat and the skipper.” Summarises Pep Costa who works in the SVR Lazartigue routing cell.

Near its centre the depression shows mean windspeeds of 37 knots with gusts close to 45 or 50 at times so this will be the first big test for the six skippers since they left Brest on Sunday

“It will be stormy ,” reports Tom Laperche (SVR-Lazartigue) this afternoon during the weekly live show. “We should be able to set up well though and find the right route between low risk and losing distance. We will do things carefully and be prudent all the same. The further south you go, the weaker the wind will be. These are always complex choices ”

Still somewhat amazed at how close and intense the race has been so far – even tonight there are less than 50 miles between the top four – Thomas Coville on Sodebo Ultim3 reported on the Live show tonight: “We are waging an incredible close battle. I don't think it will last forever, but before the start I didn't think we would stay in contact this long. It’s exciting to be here in the middle of it, experiencing it from the inside, we are incredibly lucky. I don't know how long we'll last at this pace, so close together, but it creates a level of competition between the boats that I never thought we would see Once again we discover another world.”

On Actual – the current round the world record holding ULTIM which was previously MACIF - Anthony Marchand had been keeping up well with the faster, newer generation boats in front. That was until today when he shed more than 20 miles on the leaders.

He explained, “This morning I was not very happy with the speed of the boat at the end of the night and this morning. The polar percentages (the predicted boat speed) were not good, I had difficulty accelerating. After analyzing all the data, I checked everything and finally saw that there was a white plastic sheet on the centerboard which was difficult to see, but it really was quite large. In the end I had to back up to get it off but as soon as I did I was 10 knots quicker than before.”

Meantime the early leader Charles Caudrelier admitted, “I am a little disappointed with last night (Tuesday). I was in contact with Sodebo and we had a wind hole we were stuck in for several hours. I was truly stuck in the anticyclone. We'll take stock of things again tomorrow, it's going to be a rough night!”

By late on Thursday the leading skippers should break into a weak trade wind which they are going to have to get quite far to the west to find. They should cross the Equator Saturday night around 2200hrs UTC.

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The world's first-ever solo multihull race around the world, the Ultim Challenge-Brest, is set to kick off on Sunday from Brest, France. The six intrepid skippers are expecting light winds and some winter sunshine for their send-off, but the stress levels will be high from the start. 

Watch the start live on YouTube below

The 24,220 nautical miles race will see the skippers head out onto a relatively benign Bay of Biscay, but a low-pressure trough with no wind at its centre is lurking off the Portuguese coast, presenting the first opportunities for a leader to jump ahead. However, any losses could have long-term effects, as the objective is first to the train of eastward-moving low-pressure systems in the Southern Ocean.

The six intrepid skippers who will compete in the first-ever solo multihull race around the world, the ARKÉA ULTIM CHALLENGE-Brest From left to right: Eric Peron, Anthony Marchand, Tom Laperche, Armel Le Cleac'h, Charles Caudrelier et Thomas Coville Photo: Alexis CourcouxThe six intrepid skippers who will compete in the first-ever solo multihull race around the world, the ARKÉA ULTIM CHALLENGE-Brest From left to right: Eric Peron, Anthony Marchand, Tom Laperche, Armel Le Cleac'h, Charles Caudrelier andThomas Coville Photo: Alexis Courcoux

Veteran weather router Marcel van Triest, who advises one of the favourites, Armel Le Cléach (Banque Populaire), has cautioned that it is pretty tricky to get down to the Cape Verdes due to the arrival of winter and a blocking situation with lots of low-pressure systems mid-Atlantic. The skippers must navigate their way through this difficult terrain, making sure that they are in the right carriage at the entrance to the Southern Ocean and not left behind.

The 32m x 23m flying multihulls will have to contend with modest winds and a much bigger low-pressure trough in the Atlantic that has broken up the prospects of any trade winds to take them south towards the Equator at high speeds. Any initial losses on these high-speed, giant ULTIMs can be problematic on this course, and skippers will have to be vigilant at all times.

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Six of the biggest, fastest ocean-going sailing craft in the world are set to be raced solo around the world for the first time starting on Sunday from the French Atlantic port of Brest around the 22,460 nautical miles classic course passing the three Great Capes.

The new ARKEA ULTIM CHALLENGE - Brest race musters six 32m (105ft) ULTIM design trimarans which are set to be raced singlehanded round the globe by six of France’s top ocean racers. The modern cutting-edge, giant ULTIMs fly on foils at sustained speeds in excess of 40kts, making them capable of making 700-800 mile days. If all the normal seasonal weather systems around the course are in place as usual, the winner is predicted to complete the course in around 43 to 45 days.

Crewed or singlehanded, the 32m x 23 m ULTIM trimarans have evolved as the weapon of choice for sailors challenging the out-and-out round-the-world record. The best solo time was set in 2017 by François Gabart at 42 days 16 hours 40 minutes and the crewed mark (for the Trophée Jules Verne) is 40 days 23 hours 30 minutes established by Francis Joyon and a crew of five on IDEC finishing in January 2017.

Until now the ULTIMs have only sailed round the world against the clock, always waiting for the best possible weather window to start. But this new race reflects the high level of interest from the assembled teams and has attracted a committed sponsor in Brittany-based banking brand Arkéa and a passionate organisation in OC-Pen Duick, which owns and manages the Route du Rhum Destination Guadeloupe, the CIC Transatlantic race and La Solitaire du Figaro.

Last year’s Route du Rhum Destination Guadeloupe and this autumn’s double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre transatlantic races have together proven a heightened level of reliability among the ULTIMs, which historically have suffered a high rate of damage and technical failures when challenging round the world records or transoceanic races or records. The outrigger floats and the appendages – rudders, centreboards and foils – are prone to damage from floating objects and the highly stressed cross beams are under huge loads.

But the most recent Transat Jacques Vabre, which finished in Martinique in mid-November in Martinique saw all five ULTIMs finish, some with performance-affecting damage. But it also proved that three of the most recent, best optimised boats Banque Populaire XI (Armel Le Cléac'h), SVR Lazartigue (Tom Laperche) and Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (Charles Caudrelier) are now quite evenly matched in terms of performance.

Around the race dock in Brest this week, where huge crowds have gathered over the festive holiday period to marvel at the assembled fleet, the big question remains how many skippers and their boats will make it to the finish line, expected to be around 17-20th February. Among the weather experts who have advised on many of the round the world records the consensus holds that if a boat finishes the race they will have a good chance of finishing on the podium.

Although the lone skippers have to sail and manage their giant boats entirely solo, each has a team of shore based weather routersAlthough the lone skippers have to sail and manage their giant boats entirely solo, each has a team of shore based weather routers Photo: Vincent Olivaud

Outside routing and pitstops permitted

Although the lone skippers have to sail and manage their giant boats entirely solo, each has a team of shore-based weather routers which provide 24/7 real-time information on the optimum course to race as well as technical experts on call day and night to immediately offer solutions to any problems.

Unlike the Vendée Globe solo round the world race in IMOCA monhulls, the ARKEA ULTIM CHALLENGE-Brest racers are allowed to make a pitstop but if they receive assistance the mimumum period for any stop is 24 hours – deemed to be punitive for multihulls making in excess of 650 or 700 miles on a typical day.

While five of the six ULTIMs have been at the pontoon in Brest for the last, the SVR Lazartigue team have been working around the clock to make repairs to the front crossbeam of their boat after damage was discovered on its return from the Transat Jacques Vabre. The boat has been relaunched and is due in Brest on Saturday.

Who’s who?

Anthony Marchand (Actual Ultim 3) is a relative newcomer to the ULTIM class and solo ocean racing, although he has a long and distinguished history of offshore one-design solo racing on La Solitaire de Figaro. The 38-year-old took over the helm of Actual Ultim 3 in the winter of 2022 and has worked hard to build miles with the VPLP design, which actually holds the course record set in 2017 in the hands of Francois Gabart. The boat has been updated with new foils, rudders and daggerboard and is smaller and lighter than the most recent boats.

Armel Le Cléac'h (Maxi Banque Populaire XI) has just won the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre race from Le Havre to Martinique racing with Seb Josse. Le Cléac’h has a long but chequered history racing multihulls, and the TJV was 46-year-old Le Cléac’h’s first multihull win. Having raced the Vendée Globe three times, winning in 2016 and finishing second in 2012 and 2008, the Southern Ocean is well known to Le Cleac’h who is an extremely focused perfectionist who has also now won La Solitaire du Figaro three times. Recent modifications showed his 2021 launched VPLP designed Banque Populaire to have a speed edge downwind in certain conditions.

Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild) has twice won the fully crewed race around the world, The Ocean Race, once as skipper and until this season, was unbeaten with Maxi Edmond de Rothschild winning the 2022 Route du Rum as well the 2021 Transat Jacques Vabre. The Gitana team’s ULTIM was designed by Guillaume Verdier and as the heaviest and most powerful allrounder in the fleet is especially quick flying upwind and good in strong winds.

Éric Péron (Adagio) is the last to qualify and enter for the race and sails the oldest boat in the event which was previously the 2015 launched Sodebo. Adagio is a non-foiling ULTIM, and Péron, 42, who has widespread experience in many different offshore and inshore classes – including race legs of the Ocean Race and La Soltaire du Figaro is out to learn his personal limits. His objective is to finish and if he does there is a good chance of a podium finish.

Thomas Coville (Sodebo Ultim 3) has eight circumnavigations under his belt, five in multihulls. The 55 year old is the most experienced solo in big multihulls sailing round the world and after five attempts he set the solo multihull record at 49 days in 2016 finishing into Brest on Christmas Day. His Sodebo Ultim 3 was launched in March 2019 after different experts in their field designed the different key components of his boat. It was substantially updated for this season but has yet to reach the performance levels of the top three ULTIMs but Coville’s mental tenacity and experience could prove key.

Tom Laperche (SVR Lazartigue) at 26 is the youngest skipper in the fleet and has been mentored and trained by Vendée Globe winner and solo round the world record holder François Gabart. He has many the same traits and skills as Gabart who won the Vendée Globe as the youngest skipper ever at 29 in 2013. Like Gabart Laperche is a talented engineer who is quick learner with a capacity to push hard. He won La Solitaire du Figaro in 2022 and has sailed as co-skipper with Gabart on SVR Lazartigue since the boat was launched. The VPLP design showed good speeds in the Transat Jacques Vabre, although it is said to be less easy to sail than Banque Populaire XI, which comes from the same design house where both ULTIMs were designed by different teams within the same studio. Banque Populaire XI is a development of her predecessor Banque Populaire IX which capsized and was lost on the 2018 Route du Rhum when Le Cléac'h was rescued by helicopter, whilst SVR Lazartigue started with a blank sheet of paper. It features the central cockpit integrated low into the central hull which allows a lower centre of gravity, improved aerodynamics and the mainsail to skim the deck creating an ‘end plate effect.

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More than any other skipper on the Ultim Challenge-Brest, at 55 years old, Thomas Coville knows what lies ahead. He has sailed around the world eight times, five times on a multihull and in 2016 broke the solo round the world record by setting a new mark of 49 days in 2016, smashing Francis Joyon’s existing record by eight days. An engaging philosopher, Coville has always been open and generous in his portrayals of life at high speeds on the Sodebo multihulls. He has been supported by the giant Vendée-based foods and snacks company for the better part of 25 years now. 

“The first question we ask ourselves is not so much “Who will win?” but “Is it possible?”

Sum up for us what makes this race, this challenge so special?

It’s a race that will make history. On this race we are pioneers. Almost 15 years ago I imagined this race and back then it felt a such a long way off. But in saying that never in my imagination did I consider we might do it on boats which are so fast and we would be flying. And what’s the most incredible thing is that the first question we ask ourselves is not so much “Who will win?” but “Is it possible?” considering the technical aspects that need to work and the commitment required.

Because in ocean racing there’s nothing more difficult than this?

On board a monohull, if you make a mistake you get knocked flat on the water, you can get hurt but mostly you continue the race. On board a multihull, you capsize but the ultimate sanction is death. This is like being a mountaineer free climbing alone on a big face. It feels a bit like the explorations of Everest, we don't really know if we can do it. We are going to go to sea areas where this is not much traffic aboard high-tech craft. It’s a heady mix of innovation, technological aspects, the purity of speed and everything this is reflected from the fragility of being entirely alone.

Thomas Coville's Sodebo multihull at speed Photo: Vincent CurutchetThomas Coville's Sodebo multihull at speed Photo: Vincent Curutchet

You have attempted five round-the-world records in multihulls, finishing three before setting the record. What is your current relationship with this round the world route?

It interests me. It fascinates me. I appreciate over time it remains a permanent fixture, and the notion that time is always ticking away on the water. The constant effort during a round-the-world intrigues me. What interests me is to hold out, to make it work like in relationships in general. And then within this is the passage round Antarctic where there is no scale of values, where you feel you are only tolerated as a being, you feel very small. And then passing Cape Horn is where we are gifted a new life. All in all, it is fascinating !

But in essence, sum up why is this round the world so hard?

I was often asked why I go there and if I had fun. But I think it goes beyond that: the desire must come from your gut. There is this additional dimension in needing to surpass yourself. It is all different parts of pain, of self denial, not sleeping, of being frustrated, anxiety and stress what we will hit ice and it capsize us, of being cold. But as a species, man is somewhat strange and magically seems to be able to adapt to all different situations. And I like to feel like I'm a good sailor, like the real person and not an imposter. In a way it is an expedition.

Does the solo passage round the world change a sailor?

Yes, we never come back completely the same. There are all those different sensations, the emotions, it challenges the soul. And having done several allows us to put things into perspective but on top of it all to realize how lucky we are. I love these times we are living in. Even if the news is stress provoking, I remain an eternal optimist. We are a generation blessed by the gods, here we are experiencing a real, huge transformation of our sport, and we are the ones who can sail around the world solo on 32 metre boats.

How do you go the distance, how do you not go crazy?

We do go crazy. There are days when we burst into floods of tears, when we scream, where nothing at all is going well. I don't have a superhero cape, I always come home feeling something like an old soldier whose face and mind carries the scars of battle. Sometimes I think we look like driftwood like we see on the beach, worn smooth and laminated so there is nothing left except white.

Why is it so difficult for us on land to appreciate how harsh this challenge is?

I remember Ellen MacArthur (record holder in 2005 at 71 days 14hrs 18mins) saying to me, after my record: “now I know you know what I know”. Unfortunately on land you have to accept you won’t really properly be able to appreciate this. I spoke about it at length with Thomas Pesquet (French astronaut) who told me about his journeys into space, that “You have to accept not understanding” and that I had to let myself appreciate it through using my imagination. But we share a common experience of seeing the earth differently, of being able to appreciate its dimensions better, of appreciating temporal space.

And after you are done, when you have finished does everything on land seem bland, it is difficult to get back into everyday life?

I have had painful trips around the world because before I had felt much more alone on land than on the boat. There is no one to blame for that, I don't blame anyone, it's not because people don’t like me or understand me but because what we do is difficult to comprehend. A sailor becomes an islander. You head off secretly afraid that people will forget you, then regret going and after finishing you want to fit back in and be loved. Leaving is ultimately very selfish. But I have already experienced the contradictions that hurt me a lot and these gradually allowed me to feel this mood less. Overall it has brought me closer to my wife, my two children and all those that I love. Perhaps as a sailor and competitor my love was conditions. They have taught me to understand what unconditional love is. And through it all that allows me to have altogether lighter moods and to more peaceful at the thoughts of my return

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The Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School is based on Dun Laoghaire's West Pier on Dublin Bay and in the heart of Ireland's marine leisure capital.

Whether you are looking at beginners start sailing course, a junior course or something more advanced in yacht racing, the INSS prides itself in being able to provide it as Ireland's largest sailing school.

Since its establishment in 1978, INSS says it has provided sailing and powerboat training to approximately 170,000 trainees. The school has a team of full-time instructors and they operate all year round. Lead by the father and son team of Alistair and Kenneth Rumball, the school has a great passion for the sport of sailing and boating and it enjoys nothing more than introducing it to beginners for the first time. 

Programmes include:

  • Shorebased Courses, including VHF, First Aid, Navigation
  • Powerboat Courses
  • Junior Sailing
  • Schools and College Sailing
  • Adult Dinghy and Yacht Training
  • Corporate Sailing & Events

History of the INSS

Set up by Alistair Rumball in 1978, the sailing school had very humble beginnings, with the original clubhouse situated on the first floor of what is now a charity shop on Dun Laoghaire's main street. Through the late 1970s and 1980s, the business began to establish a foothold, and Alistair's late brother Arthur set up the chandler Viking Marine during this period, which he ran until selling on to its present owners in 1999.

In 1991, the Irish National Sailing School relocated to its current premises at the foot of the West Pier. Throughout the 1990s the business continued to build on its reputation and became the training institution of choice for budding sailors. The 2000s saw the business break barriers - firstly by introducing more people to the water than any other organisation, and secondly pioneering low-cost course fees, thereby rubbishing the assertion that sailing is an expensive sport.