Thomas Coville's nailbiting third attempt to break the solo round the world record in 7 years

We have had such a rain of record-breaking sailing voyages in recent years that the current attempt by French sailor Thomas Coville to break the non-stop round the world record is sliding by little unnoticed in English speaking circles.

Yet this record is the most punishing and elevated of all, and Coville’s attempts span a heart-rending seven-year catalogue of disappointments and failure.

Today, as he approaches Cape Horn on his way home in his 105ft trimaran Sodeb’O, he stands some 800 miles shy of the time set in 2004 by Francis Joyon.

I’m really keeping my fingers crossed for Coville. Things have not gone his way and for sheer persistence he deserves to succeed.

In 2004, the year Joyon lopped an incredible 20 per cent off the solo record held by Ellen MacArthur, he made his first attempt in Sodeb’O.

Soon after setting a new 24-hour solo record of 619 miles (his yacht is faster than Joyon’s IDEC on paper), the crash box of one of his bows tore off, possibly after a brush with ice, and he was forced to give up the chase.

In 2008 he had another attempt and raced all the way round the world only to arrive back in Brest in January 2009 two days after the record time. Not surprisingly after 59 days and 20 hours of extreme stress and effort, Thomas Coville broke down in tears.

So now, on his third attempt, you can’t help but feel for him. A new record is achievable – Joyon had an incredible run through the Southern Ocean but got held up by a slow period of headwinds in the South Atlantic.

If Coville gets better winds then he could make up a deficit of up to 300 miles a day at that point. So it’s certainly doable. But getting all the way back outside of the record time is also a real risk.

The next stage of Coville’s circumnavigation will be fascinating. Once out of the Southern Ocean he will have little to lose by driving the trimaran very hard, and a new record would be one that could stand for a very long time indeed.

There’s more info and race tracker at