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5 January 2009, 09:58 am
COVILLE Closes In On Record Pace After Rounding Cape Horn
Thomas COVILLE onboard Sodeb'O
Thomas COVILLE is regaining time on the world record pace

World Record Attempt

Thomas COVILLE is closing the gap on record pace after rounding Cape Horn shortly before the New Year and then hitting top speed in the Atlantic as he chases the singlehanded round the world record.
Thomas COVILLE (FRA) onboard the maxi trimaran Sodeb'O is attempting to break the record held by Francis JOYON (FRA) on the IDEC trimaran and on Sunday 28 December at 19:42 UTC he passed a major milestone as he rounded the legendary Cape Horn. IDEC took 35 days, 12 hours and 36 minutes to round the Horn.

Commenting on rounding Cape Horn for the first time singlehanded in a multihull, the skipper of Sodeb'O admitted a sense of satisfaction, "Even though my deficit is eating away at me, I still retain the sense of determination and satisfaction through being with a boat I feel very good with; a boat which responds perfectly and has only suffered minimal damage despite the very hard conditions. To round the Horn with Sodeb'O is an immense pleasure for me. The Horn is a kind of deliverance. From the Cape of Good Hope to the Horn, if something bad happens, you're in a very critical situation, especially in a solo, record programme where all you have around you is solitude. In a multihull you're very exposed," COVILLE said.


Even though Sodeb'O took around 40 days to make the Horn, after a week in the Atlantic the deficit on the record holder JOYON has now shrunk to considerably, to 939.8 miles at the latest polling this morning.

COVILLE's comeback follows an incredible week sprinting along the coast of Argentina and Uruguay. During this time the French skippers was bordering exhaustion, as he exploited every stormy squall to ultimately make up over four days on the record time. The Maxi trimaran Sodeb'O is now making headway close on the wind in very, very uncomfortable conditions.

The N'ly wind - force 6 to 7 with 25 to 33 knots of breeze - is picking up a short sea on the nose, which is causing both the sailor and the boat to suffer. COVILLE had been etching out a 'seagull wing' shape wake as he was making easting since Saturday in order to line himself up favourably in relation to the tradewind. Midway through the course of last night COVILLE changed tack and adopted a N'ly course, which may well enable him to begin clawing back more miles on the record holder.

Risk Rewarded

It should be pointed out that on rounding Cape Horn last Sunday Sodeb'O had a deficit of nearly five days on JOYON. Opportunists, COVILLE and his routing unit didn't waver on rounding the last cape in this solo circumnavigation of the globe aboard a multihull. Indeed, they actually took the inside track by daring to go through Le Maire Strait "which has enabled us to envisage a shorter course to the west. As such we were also able to benefit from two weather systems which took us to the Rio gateway on a virtual single tack, the main bonus of which was the high speed" highlighted Richard SILVANI from Météo France yesterday morning. "Right now all that's needed is to reposition ourselves to the east in order to hunt down the famous tradewind".

Climbing due north from today, COVILLE is likely to accelerate progressively and make up even more miles. He will be able to ease his sheets slightly and get onto a more comfortable point of sail, which will be gentler for the sailor and the boat alike. On Saturday evening the skipper had to carry out repairs on a stubborn engine which was refusing to start. He spent the majority of the night upside down getting his hands dirty in some rather unenviable conditions.

The weather forecasts for the coming week will carry the Maxi Sodeb'O along at good speed as far as the equator, which she is set to reach this Wednesday 7 January. As for the Doldrums, situated at 6 or 7 degrees North, these don't appear to be very active. This may change however! Of note is the fact that there is still some uncertainty between the American and European models as regards the Azores High, which is the last strategic transition in this express round the world. It is worth pointing out that in order to beat the record set by JOYON last year, the Maxi Sodeb'O will have to cross the finish line in Brest prior to 15 January, 03:27:20 UTC.

The Record To Beat

Record: Round the World, non stop, singlehanded
Yacht: IDEC, 90ft trimaran
Skipper: Francis JOYON (FRA)
Dates: January 2008
Elapsed time: 57 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes and 6 seconds
Distance: 21,769 nautical miles
Average Speed: 15.84 knots

ISAF (source: Sodeb'O Voile)
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