Thomas Colville abandons Record attempt

Thomas Coville - Happy New Year. Sodeb’O Voile
. ©
Thomas Coville discovered last night shortly before 00:02 hrs, that the starboard float of Sodeb'O had lost its crash-box, perhaps following a collision with a growler.

Coville had seen two icebergs of several hundreds metres in size yesterday and had observed growlers around the boat.

Sodeb'O has been forced to abandon and is diverting to Cape Town, South Africa, a distance of 1,300 miles to the northwest.

Just before discovering the damage to Sodeb'O last night, Coville had broken Francis Joyon’s 24 hour solo record by 3 miles - covering 619,3 miles at an average speed of 25,8 knots.

Of note is the fact that Thomas beat the record during his 20th day at sea, as did Francis Joyon, and in the same zone of the Indian Ocean between the Cape of Good Hope and the Kerguelen Islands; added to that he was in a fairly similar weather pattern, ahead of a depression.

Update from Thomas Coville - Translation Kate Jennings

At 12:50 UTC, Thomas climbed up on deck to reduce the sail when he noticed, with the boat’s change of behaviour, that the crash box on the starboard float had been pulled out. The extreme section of the float bow, the crash box serves as a fuse in the event of impact and it is designed to come apart in the event of impact in order to prevent the float itself from exploding.

Thomas realised in a fraction of a second that his solo record attempt around the world was over. It should be noted that his average speed had but increased over the past few hours and that, without this damage, he would have established a 24 hour record at an even greater level.

'I had just received the news that I had established a new 24 hour record when I felt the boat slow. I immediately went up on deck and I saw a plume of water, which was 3 metres above the starboard float. I eased the headsails. In a matter of seconds, you understand what’s happening without knowing how. Given the urgency I dropped the sails to control the situation. I don’t know what happened. A few moments later, I saw a piece of ice, but I think the impact would have been more severe, more violent if I’d hit ice.

In this instance I remained on the netting, arms dangling, concentrated on the action even though part of me is very disappointed. The whole adventure races through your mind: what you have done and what you won’t do. 20 days of racing! It’s like a scene from a tragedy! As I virtually haven’t slept for 3 days, I tried, in vain to do so initially. I ended up sinking into sleep eventually though. When I awoke, it was broad daylight and I wondered whether it wasn’t simply a nightmare. The beautiful bird is indeed here though, injured.

I’m midway between the Kerguelen Islands and South Africa in the middle of nowhere. I’m heading for Cape Town and then we’ll return to Les Sables d’Olonne.

It’s a committed project and therefore very exposed. I accept this retirement because that’s all part of the rules of the game. I got a great deal of pleasure from sailing on this boat. The more it went on, the more liberated I felt in this part of the globe where one can simply be tolerated; I felt as one with the environment. The competitor inside me is clearly disappointed. It’ll take me some time to analyse all this. I am keen to return to this as I feel too much bitterness about the fact that this has ended so soon.'

The desire to return here is shared by his partner, since Sodeb’O has confirmed its support of Thomas Coville:

'this round the world forms part of an extreme project. A number of people have had a go at it. Thomas showed great panache in his attempt. There will be other opportunities. As soon as he’s ready, we’ll set out with him' Patricia Brochard, co-president of Sodeb’O stated this morning.

Reaction by Francis Joyon, following the abandonment of Thomas Coville

'Firstly, as is the tradition, I congratulate Thomas on the 24-hour record, which shows the great potential of the boat, and the desire to want to express it in these difficult latitudes.

In terms of damage to Sodeb'O, is the fear for all long distance sailors, damage that requires the abandonment, on a journey as long and difficult. Thomas I imagine must be thwarted and I am disappointed to lose a competitor and sportsman and the spur it represents.'