Thomas Coville missed the solo round the world record, but gave max value in self-expression


You can see from the picture below of him being comforted by a friend how inconsolably disappointed and upset he was.

Coville chased hopefully to the last, and all diaries throughout tell what an exhausting and nerve-wracking record this is. Previous holder Ellen MacArthur (on B&Q) has often emphasised that the speed and risks involved mean it is not even to be compared to the Vendée Globe.
Most memorable was Coville’s hair-raising log from the Southern Pacific Ocean, when he evaded disaster by a whisker. The boat was overcanvassed for a squall and lifted up onto one float before setting off blindly on a huge high-speed surf.

Coville was on the point of retreating to the cabin, the only place he’d be sure to survive a capsize, when the boat sat back down, picked up on another surf and a piece of the traveller whistled by, decapitating both carbon wheels. ‘I was right there just seconds ago and my legs couldn’t have withstood the impact,’ he observed.

That’s not to suggest that Joyon’s voyage was by comparison any kind of cakewalk. The ironman single-hander has a very stiff upper lip and a talent for understatement, so we never heard about any perilously close shaves, if any. Coville, on the other hand, is cast from the Ellen mould and lets it all hang out – and then some.

So the cost/benefit equation doesn’t look too good for Coville so far. But no-one who followed this attempt can deny that he gave max value in the self-expression department. You might say he was the bard of the high seas.

This recent log from him caught our eye in the YW office. Maybe it sounds better in French?

‘This feeling of awe and impulse to worship is at the heart of my desire to be at sea and without it I would sail fast to the nearest port. Most people look across the sea or motor close to the shore while I pray for them far out on the flashing seas. I sense I am a part of evolution, that invisible force, the energetic gift that drives me on to new and further horizons.

‘I act on my dreams and make them possible: I have flaws, wounds, whims, detractors, disorders and absurd profundities because I am the combination of wild inspiration and an out-of-hand imagination.’

Um, yeah. But did I mention that he’s very good-looking?

Photos courtesy of Thierry Martinez.