A few days after Frances Joyon got a new IDEC (STORY), Thomas Coville got a new Sodeb'O.
One was launched close to its home port, in France; the other was built down under, in Australia.
As this goes on-line, one is having a bit of fun, racing alongside windsurfers, in the Défi de Dourananez.
The other is in Noumea, after the first leg of a long journey home to France.


Both men are clearly delighted by their new trimarans, yet the philosophy behind these two boats could scarcely be more different and that has resulted in two boats, designed by the same architects, for the same purpose, which are also distinctly different! The trimarans were designed by Nigel Irens and Benoit Cabaret and there are some obvious similarities, like pronounced hull chines and masts set well back, for example. There are also a goodly number of differences, starting with the approach to build costs.

Francis Joyon is no stranger to cost cutting, having prepared an ancient trimaran to smash the round the world record, on a budget that didn't allow for what most people would regard as essentials; like a weather router, shore team and new sails. Thomas Colville has had the backing of Sodeb'O for 8 years. Colville is more "sponsor rich" than Joyon, but neither has the sort of budget that Groupama provides for Franck Cammas, so there was no question of a € multi-million Multiplast build for either man.

Joyon - very much a hands on person - wanted his boat built close to home and entrusted the construction to Marsaudon Composites, in Lorient. Costs were cut by using vacuum infusion, to build the trimaran, rather than the traditional pre-pregs. This is the first time that a vessel of this size has been constructed with the infusion technique. The result is a trade off; the weight/rigidity ratio is slightly inferior to a construction using pre-pregs, the cost saving is about 50%!

Coville's method of reducing costs was to stay with pre-preg construction, but look for a yard with lower labour rates than those in France. He took the work to Boat Speed, in Australia, the yard that had built B&Q Castorama, which Ellen MacArthur used to break Joyon's RTW record.

Joyon has also kept costs down, by having a simpler vessel that Coville. Both trimarans have Lorima carbon masts, but IDEC's is fixed, whilst Sodeb'O's rotates. IDEC's deck layout is far simpler than Sodeb'O's and that simplicity even extends to paintwork! Joyon's trimaran is plain red, unadorned except for the name IDEC, Coville's boat has - quite literally - an eye catching design.

The more simple construction and layout of Francis Joyon's boat is not entirely due to a need to keep costs down; it also stems from an inherent belief that, when it comes to battling with oceans, a sailor is better off if the number of mechanical components that might go wrong is kept to the minimum and those components that are essential are made to be as simple as possible. Francis will have no heater to warm his cabin when he battles his way through the Southern Ocean!

Simplicity and minimal equipment also means lightness and IDEC is a tonne lighter than Sodeb'O; it is also 2.3 metres shorter and carries less sail. Coville's boat had to be longer, to compensate for the extra weight that was the penalty of greater sophistocation. Time alone will tell which approach was the right one, but Joyon might have an advantage, in this respect.

Both men are experienced ORMA sailors, both hold - or have held - several ocean records. Coville's records were taken in a 60 foot ORMA trimaran; Joyon's were taken in the old IDEC, formerly Olivier de Kersauson's Sport Elect, which was 27 metres long and designed for a full crew.

Joyon used his ORMA experience when he prepared Sport Elec for single handing; he then used his Sport Elec experience in specifying certain parameters for the new IDEC and he believes that 30 metres is the maximum that a solo sailor can cope with, over a long period.


At 29.7 metres, Joyon's new boat is close to what he believes to be the upper limit, on the other hand Thomas Colville, whose solo ocean racing experience has been in the much smaller ORMA trimarans and who has never sailed solo round the world in a multihull, has chosen a 32 metre boat. Will he be able to cope with it in the long term? Colville's boat has rudders on the ama, for he intends to "fly" the centrall hull; Joyon has no such plans, nor rudders.

Time alone will tell, which man has made the right choice, but one thing seems certain; sometime, during this coming winter, one or both of them is - given reasonable weather luck - going to go round the world, alone, in under 70 days!