Round the World Solo Record: 'I can't sleep or eat' says Thomas Coville from Sodeb'O

Thursday, 11 December 2008


In a message received this Thursday morning, Thomas shared his true feelings with us as ever. In just a handful of words, the skipper of Sodeb'O translates the sentiments which are his driving force during the so dreaded Indian Ocean crossing. He also shares the difficulty of the incident suffered by Loïck Peyron, in which Gitana Eighty dismasted yesterday, after 31 days of racing in the Vendée Globe.

“50°46 South 88°12 East,

I’m making headway again but my stomach’s been so knotted up for several hours that I can’t sleep or eat and I hold my breath every ten seconds. I have two massive weights pressing on my temples and making my stomach tight:

I’m crossing a zone of transition which appeared so simple and so short on the chart in view of the whole course I have to cover, and yet I haven’t really been living since then because every wave has been accompanied by the swell which is hitting the boat head on. The boat is going fast as the wind angle is perfect, but slowing her down has become difficult as she can be carried along in very little wind in this configuration. As such she lifts up and lands with all her momentum and all her weight. The sound is indescribable and the resonance spreads all the way to the ends of my limbs. I clench my teeth, increasingly hard each time, and I tense up like a bow. This continues till the next one hits, and that goes on for hours and already hours have passed in this state. It’s insistent and wearing but you have to make headway so you make headway, it’s as simple as that.

Too sensitive you say of me! Some people think it and maybe it’s true, but this episode would be rather banal without the emotion that took over me yesterday on learning of the dismasting of Gitana 80 off the Crozet Islands.

This news has echoed around my mind since then. Primarily because it reminds me of what I’m experiencing at the moment and I can’t stop myself from wondering: am I the next on the list? You look at the chart and you can imagine the scene. All around you is a hostile desert. You fell where you shouldn’t have and it’ll take a long time to get back and it’ll be difficult and maybe perilous. It’s this reality we’re all experiencing right now on a daily basis and it doesn’t only happen to the others!

The moment of selfishness has passed. I turn back as if I can see him coming out of the eternal mists of this region and I think of him. I think of Loïck contemplating the extent of the damage with the lucidity which is specific to him. Very quickly he knows what’s what. He will draw up an inventory of what remains to be sorted out and will ensure he comes out of this. If you’re there when he arrives, you’ll see, even his jury rig will be an ingenious work of art.

Right now though, years and years of effort, experience and knowledge have crumbled away. Nobody else but him (and his whole team) can imagine, the sheer number of ideas accumulated and the number of details which were embarked aboard. A goldmine of contemplation and genius was still sailing a few hours ago. Gitana 80 (like Fujifilm) was doubtless one of the most accomplished boats of this Vendée Globe fleet. Hours and years of accumulated skills got her to the front of this ultimate race.

It’s this knot in my stomach that is right at my very core and is crying out in anger at this injustice. In the end this is what our round the world dreams cling to. Fleeting and so irrational, though sometimes a whole lifetime is devoted to it. There is a price to pay to be free and cherish the sea and at times it is too heavy for man alone.

I’m making headway and I’m continuing.
I have a knot at the core of me, which turns with each wave as I think of Loïck.

See you soon, Tom”

Sodeb’O’s deficit on the current record holder dropped below 1,000 miles on Wednesday. Stampeding through the middle of the Indian Ocean, Thomas has been linking together days at an average speed of over 23 knots. After Kerguelen, the skipper dropped down to 50 degrees South and is currently traversing a transition in the weather where the wind has eased slightly as it shifts round to the West. However, the weather conditions will become feistier again on Friday night as the Maxi Trimaran approaches Cape Leeuwin, to the south of Australia.

Voir Sodeb’O images:

Last Updated ( Thursday, 11 December 2008 )