Thomas COVILLE crossed the official start line of the single-handed round the world record attempt on Monday evening at 18:43:21 UTC.
The maxi-trimaran Sodeb'o
set out with two reefs/ORC pushed by an east/northeasterly wind of nearly 30 knots, set to fill in overnight. Thomas COVILLE (FRA) had been due to start during the same weather window as fellow Frenchman Francis JOYON (JOYON set sail on 23 November), but had to hold back due to a leak in a hydraulic cylinder. JOYON and his IDEC
trimaran have since set an incredible pace and are already past Cape Leeuwin, breaking the solo 24-hour distance record in the process.
COVILLE made some departing remarks at 14:00 UTC yesterday, whilst the boat was heading up to Ushant:
"It's a great weather window actually but it doesn't come for free. This is one you have to go and hunt down."
The first 48 hours?
"It's going to be a rather virile introduction due to the climatic conditions of course but also and above all because I'm going to have to deal with what may be a harsh depression. I'll have to round to the north of it and then sail along it. The next step will see me slipping along until the negotiation of the transition to track down the pattern of tradewinds."
The emotion of the start?
"An emotion associated with the land rather than the sea. I can't hide the intensity you feel when pulling yourself away from those who are dear to you. More than apprehension, today I feel a mixture of enthusiasm and concentration. I can't say I have a knot in my stomach. I really like the boat I'm setting off on. I'm aware of the difficulty I'm going to encounter. The knot in my stomach was something I felt at home yesterday evening."
Choosing the moment to leave?
"It's a moment which is both fabulous and gripping yet petrifying at the same time."
Sodeb'O and IDEC?
"Difficult to compare the boats in different sailing conditions. What will be interesting is to compare the average speeds on the same points of sail. Clearly our boats have evolved a great deal since that of Ellen's. You'll have to discuss it with the architects, Nigel IRENS and BENOÎT Cabaret who designed both our boats. You couldn't even have imagined averages like these only three or four years ago."
The Equator in seven days?
"We'll give ourselves between seven and eight days."
The Record To Beat
Record: Round the World, non-stop, singlehanded
Skipper: Ellen MACATHUR (GBR)
Dates: 28 November 2004-7 February 2005
Elapsed time: 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds
Distance: 21,760 nm
Average Speed: 12.66 knots
Trimaran Sodeb'o - www.sodebo-voile.com
World Sailing Speed Record Council - www.sailspeedrecords.com