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Thomas Coville: Planet Racecourse -- PART 1

Thomas Coville: Planet Racecourse -- PART 1

Part One of a two-stage interview with French ocean racer Thomas Coville who is at the forefront of the new Ultim movement that could see a fleet seven singlehanded foiling 100-foot multihulls racing around the world non-stop in 2019.


SRM: For those who are not aware, tell us about the Ultime movement and how it came about?

Thomas Coville: A little bit of history: In 2006 I was sailing in the ORMA class - the French association of 60-foot multihulls - with Sodebo. We recognised that the class was coming to an end. The reason was the of the size of the boats. The skippers believed that the planet was our racecourse now and 60-feet was too small to sail around the world - especially to pass under South Africa.

People always wonder why the MOD70 didn’t survive. They were perfect one-design boats and it's a great shame they didn't succeed as a project, but they hadn't factored in round the world racing. For that you need a boat that can get around South Africa and Cape Horn.

So Francis Joyon and myself set about building two multihulls designed by Nigel Irons for solo sailing around the world. We went around the world by ourselves and at that time we were competing to try to break the record set by Ellen McArthur - 73 days. Francis did it in the fantastic time of 57 days and I did it in 59 days. We had succeeded in making the planet our racecourse - our field of play - and we had proved it possible to race multihulls around the world by yourself. 

After my second or third attempt to set the record I began to imagine the next step: to one day have a Vendee Globe for multihulls. We always need to be pioneers and the technology that is at our disposal - new ways of designing and building fast strong boats, new concepts in hydraulics, hydrodynamics, aerodynamics, autopilots, foils and everything else - means we are at a unique point in history. 

Sometimes when you have a good idea you need to convince somebody else to join you and that's what makes it a success. So, when Francois Gabart came back from his victory in the last Vendee Globe his plan was to build a new 60-foot monohull to try to win the Vendee Globe again. I met with him and showed him the project I was working on to create a new Vendee Globe with multihulls in 2019. I remember it really clearly, we were in Brest and he was in between two flights and he looked at me and said, ‘wow, I think you are right’. 

We discussed the idea that if he built a new boat, I would have a boat, there was IDEC and Actual, so we already would have four boats and likely more new boats would come also. It took him two or three months but he... READ THE FULL ARTICLE

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