Q&A with Helly Hansen ambassador and professional sailor

Q&A with Helly Hansen ambassador and professional sailor, Thomas Coville

Q&A with Helly Hansen ambassador and professional sailor, Thomas Coville

Professional sailor and ocean adventurer, Thomas Coville, is one of the big stars in the world of solo offshore sailing. In May 2016 he took part in ‘The Transat bakerly’ and crossed the Atlantic with his 31 meter trimaran, ‘Sobedo Ultim’, reaching New York only nine hours after the winner, Francois Gabart. However, this was just part of his training for his big adventure, commencing this October – breaking the single-handed sailing record around the world and becoming the fastest solo sailor to circumnavigate the Earth. 

In this interview, skipper and Helly Hansen ambassador, Thomas Coville, gives you an insight to how he is preparing to accomplish his mission.

Your focus in the last years has been on becoming the fastest skipper sailing single-handed around the world. How much time does it take you to prepare for a record attempt like this and when did you start working on this goal?

I have been an athlete throughout my whole life, and competition is part of my nature. I really like to compete with other boats and skippers. As every athlete, like runners, sprinters or cyclists, I dream of doing something that nobody has been able to achieve before. The goal I have defined for myself is being the fastest man to single-handedly circumnavigate the Earth.

This is a big challenge, both mentally and physically. Staying fit and confident is crucial. We should not forget however, that sailing is also a very technical sport and I have to perfectly know all the little details about the boat, how to operate it, and how to fix some issues that might come up on the way. We started preparing for this attempt one year ahead.

What about your physical training – do you train alone or with a coach?

I work with a coach and train actively five days a week. The other two days are dedicated accordingly to stretching and recovery.

My training is separated into four parts.

  • The first part is all about long distance training, with cycling and running.
  • The second part is about building muscle power with fitness sessions and outdoor sports like surfing, windsurfing or kayaking.
  • Then I’ve got three months of specific training on board. A big test for me and the team to prepare the around the world trip was The Transat bakerly that started in Portsmouth.
  • The last three months before the start of my record attempt will be all about mental preparation, stretching and becoming as strong as I can.

How do you prepare mentally for the challenge?

It is a mix between experience and preparation. You have to accept that not everything can go according to plan. What is crucial here is to be able to adapt to any surprises that might come up on the way. This adaptability is one of the most important parts of the preparation.

In the past I prepared alone, based on my own feeling and my own experience.

This time I work with a coach, she is actually a Kiwi woman. It is very interesting to talk about your tensions, your fears and previous mistakes. You definitely need somebody else to improve yourself on that part of the game.

What are your sleeping and eating habits during your ride?

It is actually very important to know when it is time to sleep and how to fall asleep.

You have to work with different methods and tricks – and it doesn’t always work out.

When the boat is flying at 40 knots you must be able to fall asleep and at the same time prepare the next manoeuvre. It depends on the weather, the routing efforts to come and efforts past. I sleep an average of 3.5 – 4 hours a day, in 25 minute sessions. It only works if I manage to fall asleep within 4-5 minutes.

In terms of food, I need an average of 3,500 calories per day. In very cold conditions it can go up to 5,000 calories. On the Sodebo Ultim’ we have a water maker, as a high water quality during the whole trip is very important as well. It isn’t quite like going to the moon, but it’s pretty close.

Helly Hansen is supporting you. How important is the right clothing for you?

Getting ready for an around the world trip is a big job and everything is about the details.

Your choice of equipment is really important. After all, it is about your safety and performance.

I expect to be on board for almost two months, so clothing becomes like a second skin to me – very close and personal. The gear has to cover all kinds of weather and climate conditions. Sometimes it is crucial that it is waterproof, other times it is more about breathability or keeping you warm, and furthermore, it has to protect your skin from the sun.

When choosing what I am going to wear for the trip around the world, I need to test the gear before. I need to be sure and 100% confident about what I get.

I choose Helly Hansen because they are the best in the world for protection. They are able to produce very technical gear, which I have been constantly helping them improve over the past 10 years.

There are several brands out there offering full weather protection gear for a trip around the world, but for me, Helly Hansen is the right choice!

How can the public get on board with Thomas Coville?

Who has ever wondered what is it like to sail on one of the world’s fastest trimarans? The lucky winner of the Helly Hansen summer campaign, “What’s on your Horizon?”, will have this question answered!

The competition is open until June 30th. Share your summer plans and upload your personal sailing picture at www.hellyhansen.com/whatsonyourhorizon to get the chance to sail with Thomas Coville, onboard the Sodebo Ultim’ in September, 2016.


The greatest successes of Thomas Coville at a glance

  • 7 round-the-world trips – 3 in single-handed sailing, 4 with a team
  • 7 solo records and 4 team records
  • 9 sailing trips to Cape Horn
  • 15 transatlantic crossings
  • Winner of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012
  • Defender of the Jules Verne Trophy 1997 and 2010
  • Second place at „The Transat“ 2004
  • Second place at Transat Jacques Vabre 2015
  • Third place at the Route du Rhum 2006 and 2010