After 28 days at sea and now at the midway point in his race against the clock, Thomas Coville, onboard Sodebo, looks back at his descent of the Atlantic and his passage across the Indian Ocean.
On entering the Pacific, the skipper of Sodebo is beginning the next section of his planetary voyage.
At the midway point Coville confirmed that he is at the peak of his fitness saying, "I'm amazed to feel this fresh. I'm not limiting myself. I don't have to choose to do one course or the other." The same is true for the boat, "Even though I carry out a few jobs here and there on a daily basis, notably at the equator when I broke three battens."
Sodebo made its entrance into the Pacific on Friday. Ahead of Coville and prior to the liberation represented by rounding Cape Horn, potentially ten days away, the big test consists of going around the Antarctic continent.
Battling against time is one thing. For Coville, this virtual adversary, who never stops, is competing in a psychological war he's trying to escape. With a deficit of around two days in relation to the reference time set by Francis Joyon, who two years ago traced an exemplary course, the skipper of Sodebo knows the frustration of being faster across the water and yet behind on the content.
Fully focused for the past 28 days and sailing at an extreme standard since leaving Brest, Coville is continuing to attack, "whilst trying to strike a balance on a daily level and keeping to the same pace day after day of around 20 knots, and the same output with about the same number of miles each day, namely around 500."
Even though he's taking things one step at a time, Coville doesn't have his eyes closed to what awaits him, "Though the Indian Ocean is demanding and violent, though it's a jackal which goes for your throat and commits you to a hand-to-hand fight, the Pacific comes after the Atlantic and the Indian and is both long and wearing."
And he knows what he's talking about as he makes headway in the pitch black conditions, without stars or moon, at an average speed of 25 knots on a course of 120 degrees on a boat where tension and concentration are matters for survival.
On route towards Cape Horn, there is strong, steady wind, which will require a great deal of effort. For Coville, that means manoeuvres and sail changes,
The solo sailor is entering some testing latitudes where his boat will go very fast in some very heavy seas. "At these latitudes, the phenomena move quickly and they are massive in scale,
" said Coville. "They are violent masses of air and water that nothing can stop. At these latitudes, you sail in systems which are on a par with cyclones in terms of scale".
And then in the circumnavigation of Antarctica, there has been some ice pinpointed by CLS Argos, which has been working on the subject with Tom and his team this year, "It's a new aspect to racing which enables us to manage the risk. Knowing about it is no less harrowing, but it's simply less idiotic" concludes the skipper before returning to the deck to furl in the gennaker and hoist the solent in the pitch black of the Pacific."
The Record To Beat
Name: Francis Joyon (FRA)
Dates: January 2008.
Elapsed time: 57 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes and 6 seconds
Average speed: 15.84kts
For more information on Sodebo click here.
World Sailing Speed Record Council website