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    May 2020

    Thomas Coville on solo sailing versus home confinement

    Thomas Coville is, by choice and vocation, an expert on staying for weeks and months in the confines of a sailing boat – alone or with a small crew. He has already sailed seven times around the world and was the first sailor to sail solo around the world in less than 50 days. Here are his thoughts on the key elements of confinement.

    Thomas, the skipper of the brand-new Sodebo 3 foiling multihull, is one of the world’s most experienced offshore sailors and his speciality is sailing solo. He has never suffered from being confined at sea and there is a good reason: “When I leave to sail, I’m not in confinement mode, I’m prepared, I’m ready and all is anticipated. […] The current Covid-19 situation has to do with health, accident and involuntary confinement,” he says.

    From his experiences at sea – solo or crewed, he knows what it takes to establish new structures that help him deal with confinement. Here are a few key aspects:

    • Create rituals and routines to focus on the essentials and remove the unnecessary. Basics like keeping the boat clean get very important. “We come back to the primary needs of the Maslow pyramid. These small routines contribute to intellectual hygiene, keeping the mind clean and focused.”

    A funny note on routine: Thomas chose to become a sailor exactly because he wanted “to escape from the routines, of which he was really scared.”

     

    Thomas Coville

    One clearly defined and timed routine: meals and snacks. Photo: Matt Knighton

     

    • Stay in physical movement. “When sailing with a crew, we often look forward to getting up on deck to do a shift because it occupies and empties the head. There are even those who sometimes zealously try to make it last.” At home, staying physically fit helps to cope with confinement. These days, Thomas and his family meet every evening for a workout session, to which he adds some mental training in the form of calculation and recitation of short texts.

     

    Thomas Coville

    On Thomas’ trimaran, the space is limited, but the effort is multiplied. Photo: Martin Keruzore

     

    In short, Thomas’ motto for these days (as well as in life), could be “mens sana in corpore sano” or a healthy mind in a healthy body. This approach also helps when dealing with other people these days.

    Looking at confinement, Thomas believes that “it changes our relation to others because they enter a perimeter that we thought would be our own, incompressible. The confinement creates new rules that, surprisingly, I find very beautiful. We realize that we can go much further in accepting others and understanding ourselves. The confinement obliges us, moreover, to have some rituals, routines…”

     

    The boat might be huge (32 x 24m), but the office is small. Photo: Matt Knighton

     

    Thomas adds another and no less important factor to the context of sailing and confinement: ENJOYMENT. “When I’m at sea, it´s a pleasure. The contact with nature, the minimalism of the boat, and the movement of the boat, it changes everything. From each trip around the world, the memory of flow stays with me – when I’m in harmony with the boat, when sounds, equipment and mood all match perfectly together.”

     

    Thomas Coville

    Alone on the ocean. Photo: Martin Keruzore

     

    Right now, Thomas is actively planning his upcoming season, hoping to create new memories on his trimaran soon. With most sailing races canceled, he and his team will have plenty of time to train and fine-tune their preparations to break the Trophée Jules Verne record. This means sailing around the globe in under 40 days.

    “When all this is finished, there will be no social drinks, no barbecue, I’ll go sailing right away.” It’s called being focused.

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    As the world slowly moves towards reopening, Thomas shares his view on the situation, how it feels to come back to people after a long time at sea, especially solo, and how he’s looking forward to getting back on the water and sail again. Check out Thomas’ message and video here, he speaks in French, but you can enjoy some great stock footage from Thomas and his new Sodebo trimaran. Soon he’ll be back on the water!

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