Thomas Coville: « The Vendée Globe was an initiation »

Thomas Coville
© Gilles Martin-Raget

He is a quiet skipper living his famous sailor’s life with a lot of humility and objectivity. As well as poetry, sometimes, when he talks about sailing around the world, which he did many times. « After a circumnavigation, no matter how disappointing, frustrating or satisfying they may have been, my tendency to introspection brings out a lot of positive and happy feelings. These feelings help me open up as a human, a husband, a father, a friend… ».


After his victory in the Volvo Ocean race in June, Thomas admits he was relieved: « after sailing around the world twice to beat the record and failing to do so, the Volvo felt great. I was able to re-focus on that difficult and demanding project with a skipper who’s also difficult and demanding. (Note: Franck Cammas). When spend so much time sailing solo, you sometimes get to question your own skills. Now I’m feeling stronger ».


Thomas was the fastest man in the world in 2009 (Note: solo speed record over 24 hours, sailing 628.5 miles at 26.2 knots – the record was beaten by Francis Joyon this summer with 668 miles), and arguably the most determined skipper when it comes to sailing fast and single-handed around the world. He will be back at sea in 2013 on his 31-metre maxi-trimaran Sodebo with one single goal in mind: sail around the world solo and clock the fastest time.


With only a few weeks left before the Vendée Globe starts, the French yachtsman talks about his own Vendée Globe, 12 years ago. « It was my first solo circumnavigation and just like every time you do something for the first time, I will never forget it, it has become a reference. It was like an initiation, I realized what I was capable of, or what I was unable to do, for that matter. I found out more about myself. » A few months before the 2000 edition, the measurement protocol banned pendular masts and the Sodebo Open 60’ had to be radically modified. « The yacht was no longer the one that I was comfortable with, she had been denatured. So I started feeling pressure during the race. But to compete in the Vendée Globe, you have to make one with your yacht. Still, I had incredible experiences, like staying eleven days at the helm pretty much without sleeping. It was a nightmare, but one you learn a lot from. What is both difficult and magical in the Vendée Globe is that no matter what scenario you have planned, things never happen the way you had imagined. Eventually, you don’t whether you’re right or wrong any more or how you compare to others. My ultimate dream would be competing in the Vendée Globe on a multihull! »


After setting the first Mediterranean record a few days ago (Marseille-Carthage in 1d 01h36’), Thomas and Sodebo will participate in the « Route de la Découverte » (between Cadiz and San Salvador). It will then be time to prepare for their own Holy Grail around the world. Just like an albatross, they travel all over the seas and never stop…



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