“ When you lose to a winner like François, and you have the chance to compete against such a great sailor, it’s also an achievement.”
Thomas Coville, one of the great French solo sailors of recent times, became the second competitor to finish The Transat bakerly this morning when he brought his Ultime trimaran, Sodebo, to the finish at New York.
After a voyage from Plymouth of eight days, 18 hours and 32 minutes, the 48-year-old who has completed seven circumnavigations of the world plus numerous transatlantic races and record-setting voyages, finished just nine hours, 37 minutes and 23 second behind class winner Francois Gabart on Macif.
Coville’s giant multihull crossed the finish line in the dark off Sandy Hook at 09:02:02 BST, having travelled a total of 4,656 nautical miles through water at an average speed of 22.11 knots.
He may be the runner-up, but Coville put on an astonishing display of big boat solo racing as he matched Gabart for much of the voyage, despite sailing a heavier boat.
The two sailors raced either in sight of each other, or just a few miles apart, for hours on end as they swooped low into the tradewind belt south of the Azores looking for the fastest passage across the Atlantic.
Speaking at the finish Coville said he was delighted to have been involved in such a close contest with his younger rival. “It was a fantastic battle with François,” said a magnanimous Coville on the dock. “I think François is a fantastic and worthy winner.
“I’m competitive, so of course I’m disappointed not to win, but when you lose to a winner like François, and you have the chance to compete against such a great sailor, it’s also an achievement. You have to be honest and say, he was better and I’m very lucky to have raced against such a guy.”
Coville said he loved the great competition and the speed of the race, and being part of a major event in the early history of the Ultime class.
“It’s the first time I think that a southerly route has been faster and safer,” he said. “The northern route was not an option for us. The south was an easier route as well; it was fast and we almost beat the race record, even sailing an extra 650nm, which really shows you how fast it was because we took a long, long route.
“Every race is different, sailing is such an unpredictable sport and that’s why I love it,” he added. “For a few years we have been dreaming about a race like this, solo across the Atlantic on Ultimes, and today I think our dreams are realised. I’m very happy to be a part of this new class history.”
On seeing the dramatic New York City skyline, Coville gave an insight into the contrast he had experienced. After being alone at sea for nearly nine days he was overwhelmed to find himself in the heart of one of the great cities of the world. “You have to imagine a man on board by himself and suddenly you just arrive into a city like New York where it’s crowded - there are helicopters, lots of traffic and tall buildings - it’s very emotional and you share that with all of your team. It’s a really nice destination; I think Plymouth to New York is a good idea,” he concluded.
As Coville finished, the third-placed competitor in the Ultime class, Yves Le Blevec on Actual, is 255 miles from the line.
Elsewhere in The Transat bakerly fleet, Isabelle Joschke has managed to establish a lead of six miles in the competitive Class40 battle. In second place British skipper Phil Sharp on Imerys, who celebrates his 35th birthday today, is now nine miles ahead of third-placed Thibaut Vauchel-Camus on Solidaires en Peloton-Arsep.
Also celebrating his birthday today is Armel Le Cléac’h who still leads the IMOCA 60 fleet, now well to the west of the Ice Exclusion Zone and about 280 miles southeast of the coast of Nova Scotia. Le Cleac’h on board Banque Populaire is 40 miles ahead of the chasing Vincent Riou on PRB and 154 miles ahead of Jean-Pierre Dick on St Michel-Virbac in third.
In the Multi50s, Gilles Lamiré on French Tech Rennes St Malo still holds his lead over the four-boat fleet and is now 235 miles ahead of rival Lalou Roucayrol aboard Arkema. Roucayrol is currently assessing his options after his boat hit an object in the water, damaging a daggerboard.
Just over 768 miles from the finish line, the Multi50s are expected to be the next class to hit the dock, on or around May 14th.