Record-Breaking Solo Sailor Thomas Coville – Stories of Adventure and Persistence
The first person to sail around the world solo in under 50 days, Thomas Coville has made a life of pushing the limits of what is humanly possible. Yet, it’s not every record or every victory that makes Coville the proudest, but rather the setbacks and losses he’s overcome to get there. His evolution as both a sailor and a human being is ongoing, and his next steps are just as exciting as his last. What drives Coville to face the perils of solo offshore sailing, especially at such a magnitude, over and over again?
The Birth of an Adventurer: Thomas Finds the Balance.
Thomas discovered his fascination with the sea at age 13, and the feeling that he had as a child is something that he thinks of, still. A self-proclaimed “frustrated” teenager,” Coville says that “something was missing in me with my body and my place in the world. And suddenly, with the wind and the sea, I found the balance. It could have been something different, but I found my place. And I knew from that time, that my place was there. Something very deep. Something that links you to your past and also to your future. Each time I feel lonely, I can remember that feeling. It’s very chemical as well. It’s something in my brain. That chemical reaction in my brain makes a balance.” Thomas found himself on the ocean, and he was hooked.
Thomas followed the wind and the ocean to compete in the world’s most prestigious offshore races. In 2012, he won the Volvo Ocean Race with Groupama 4. He’s had multiple podiums and a victory in the Route du Rhum. With notable finishes in The Transat, the Vendee Globe, and more, Coville’s offshore race achievements are enviable, to say the least.
Yet, with such a spectacular race resume, Coville also enjoyed pushing himself in single-handed record attempts. Having set many records, including a record from Miami to New York in 2005. In 2016, Thomas set the around the world sailing record single-handed on Sodebo Ultim in 49 days 3 hours 7 minutes and 38 seconds.
Imagine you’ve never heard any music in your life, and suddenly, somebody is going to put on your ears Rachmaninoff [on winning after so many tries]
Overcoming Setbacks and the Sweet Taste of Success.
With so many accomplishments under his belt, people associate Thomas Coville with success and victory. Yet, Coville credits the most powerful emotions he’s ever felt to the times he was at his lowest, the times he’s lost a race or came short of a goal.
Most notably, Coville set the around the world sailing record on his fifth attempt. That means he “failed” four times before enjoying the sweet taste of success, making his victory that much more meaningful. Thomas describes the feeling he had after his 49 day record: You wait for it for such a long time. At one point, you probably think it can’t happen. It’s something unreal. It’s something that you dream about, but it’s not part of real life. Suddenly, you get access in your brain to something that was totally unreal and then became real. It’s like you opened something in your brain which is totally new. Imagine you’ve never heard any music in your life, and suddenly, somebody is going to put on your ears Rachmaninoff. And it creates that emotion that is totally alien. You have this emotional shock that you will keep all your life.” No doubt, such intense emotions, such music, are only accessible to somebody who’s tried and tried to succeed despite missing his goal, somebody who’s persisted when all seemed to be unattainable.
The Unpredictable Conditions of Solo Offshore Sailing
The world of solo offshore sailing is physically and mentally demanding like few other sports are. These solo sailors must man a huge trimaran alone. A missed moment can mean loss or even death, so Coville must persist through gale force winds, over night and day, no matter how exhausted he is.
Coville has compared solo sailing to crew sailing: “In crew sailing, even if you have the feeling that you want to quit and you’ve hit that wall, you can say OK, I’m going to stay in bed. But when you are by yourself, it can’t happen, or if you accept that you’re going to die.” This description of the difficult conditions and extreme risks highlight the need to be as trained and prepared as possible.
Coville braves these extreme conditions by doing exactly that, being prepared for the unpredictable. Even when he’s at home with his family, Coville continues with intense training. Like when he was a 13-year-old boy, Coville lives for the balance he gets from being on the ocean, and he keeps going back for more.
“Somebody Will Do it in Less than 40 Days”
Thomas Coville isn’t satisfied with the many victories he’s already had. He continues to challenge himself and enjoy the symphony of the sea. His world record has since been defeated, but Coville isn’t fazed. He seems to have a deep understanding of the human need to push boundaries, and he is one of a select community of sailors who will push even further.
Luckily for us, as long-time collaborators with Coville, we will continue to benefit from his accomplishments as he tests the limits of our gear. Our latest collaboration, the HP Racing Midlayer is one more way we’ve benefited from our partnership with Coville . . . as if inspiration wasn’t enough, we can try to evolve alongside him, too.