After just over 16 days at sea, Thomas Coville made the decision on Friday with his crew not to continue the Jules Verne Trophy attempt. After trying to repair the starboard rudder of the Sodebo Ultim 3 with François Duguet, the captain of the boat and the rest of the team, the skipper chose to act like a good sailor and not to “tempt the devil”. The trimaran is currently on its way to Reunion, where it is expected to arrive by the end of next week.

It was a special day on Friday that the eight companions of Sodebo Ultm 3, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and the team members at the base in Lorient, thousands of kilometers away, will have lived. It all started with the first returns of two helmsmen on board, François Morvan and Matthieu Vandame.


“After a reflection by François and Matthieu about their rooms that had been difficult at the helm with a strong downwind wind, we realized during a routine check that we had a problem with steering, rudder, rudder”, Thomas Coville explains.

After a first diagnosis, the skipper decides to slow down in an attempt to repair the rudder on the starboard float. On the Lorient side, the ground team is mobilizing, as Jean-Christophe Moussard, the team manager, tells us: “We have a special document that allows us to manage these anxiety-provoking moments, during which there are many things to do. . do at the same time. In particular, the technical managers of the affected parties must join the routing unit for fast and efficient coordination with the ship. For our part, we came to the conclusion that after the repair, the ship would no longer be 100%. But, the last word is for the skipper and his crew. ”


On board, Thomas Coville, after six hours spent with François Duguet in the discomfort of the starboard float of the Sodebo Ultim 3, realizes: “The problem was more serious than initially thought, so« It was no longer possible piloting the boat with the same ambitions and, above all, the same security. »The skipper, after having exchanged with the land, gathers his crew to announce his decision to give up continuing with this attempt:


“It is very difficult to tell you, but it is also my job to bring you back and take the boat to its owner. We are not” out “, we did a great thing until Kerguelen, we were ahead, I do not think we should tempt the devil with a boat that it’s not 100%. ”

For Jean-Christophe Moussard, “Thomas made the right decision, he is a man of experience, he knows that the Pacific is a“ no man’s land ”, where no one comes looking for you. To make these kinds of decisions after six hours on the float, you have to be tough. ”


The crew inevitably blames it, red eyes, a mixture of exhaustion and a legitimate disappointment after 16 days of intense sailing. Asked on Saturday morning by Martin Keruzoré, Thomas Coville sums up: “Taking this decision almost halfway through was more than a disappointment. When you are in a spiral, and you have something in your gut, and the whole group is in the same atmosphere, stopping that is stopping something too good. Not only was I planning to beat Jules Verne, I also wanted to continue living this moment, this experience, this journey, which were how I had imagined them with this group that we formed. I didn’t want it to stop. ”


If he talks about “a school of humility”, the Sodebo Ultim 3 skipper also knows all the good advances that have been made so far: “The price to pay is a bit high, I am very disappointed, but I am not down because obvious: we will be back. We have a group and a boat to do it, we have a partner who is also willing to return, so the future is in front of us. We will write other stories, but we will continue this one first, it got off to a good start, it’s not over yet! ”


Indeed, this journey is not over as the trimaran is now heading to Reunion, where it will be joined by a small technical team to replace faulty parts. “We chose Reunion over Australia for several reasons,” explains Jean-Christophe Moussard. First because the weather conditions were more favorable to get to Reunion, then because we were able to send a technical team more easily. For Australia, current health conditions required fifteen days of isolation. Reunion is a French department, so it is much easier to organize. To return to Lorient via the Cape of Good Hope, the weather systems are more favorable. In the first exchanges we have with the Réunionese, we already feel that they are very enthusiastic about helping us and receive each other, we are going to live beautiful moments of sharing. ”

The stopover at Port Réunion, in the northwest of the island, should last a few days, after which the crew will return to sea for about three weeks to Lorient, where it is expected to be in mid-January. Will a new start be possible for the Jules Verne Trophy this winter? “No, we will not leave, the boat will have done more than one round the world in terms of the number of miles, we have to review it, inspect it from all angles, but we will take advantage of the return to continue working on the knowledge and performance of this young boat launched in March 2019 ”, concludes the team manager.


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