Sodebo finishes third in The Bridge

Published on July 4th, 2017

New York, NY (July 4, 2017) – Thomas Colville and his five-man crew on Sodebo Ultim’ finished third in The Bridge – Centennial Transat Ultimate trimaran race, crossing the finish line under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge today at 05:18:55 (local time), 08 days, 16 hours 18 minutes and 55 seconds after leaving from under the Saint-Nazaire Bridge on Sunday, June 25. Sodebo Ultim’ sailed 3,549.16 miles at an average speed of 17.04 knots.

Sodebo Ultim’ finished 05 hours 09 minutes and 52 seconds after second-placed IDEC Sport and 15 hours 47 minutes and 35 seconds after the winner Macif. Arriving in New York in glorious dawn light on Independence Day will be some consolation for finishing lower on the podium than Colville wanted.

Colville and his crew of Jean-Luc Nélias, Vincent Riou, Loïc Le Mignon, Thierry Briend and Billy Besson dealt with more than fair share of blows. They damaged both rudders and most significantly had to deal with the head injury to Briend on Sunday, when he was briefly knocked unconscious by huge wave whilst helming.

After they had crossed the line, Briend was transferred by a police rib to the pontoon, where he was met by his wife and two children and had a check-up in the waiting ambulance before being transferred to hospital as a precaution.

“We were all very worried when Thierry had his problem,” Colville said. “I’m not going to discuss the whole race through this, but it really did affect us.

“He was knocked flat on his back and then the other way, face first onto a winch. He was incoherent for a few hours and couldn’t remember what had happened. The doctor said evacuating him from the boat wasn’t the right thing to do because it was best to keep him out of the elements.

“You need to have a very professional crew running the boat, so that when you have an injury, like Thierry had, you can manage it properly. We managed to race the boat to the finish and the situation with Thierry at the same time.

“But Thierry was my only friend on board, so losing him was a bit of a blow,” Colville joked, before saluting the performance of François Gabart and Macif. On Christmas Day 2016, Colville smashed Joyon’s eight year-old solo round-the-world record by over eight days. But he knows that record, stunning though it was, is under threat from the new generation of Ultimate trimarans and Gabart in particular.

“Strategically it was a great race by him and his crew,” Colville said. “He is so good at knowing where to place the boat, like on a chessboard, to leave the opposition no options. I think François had a great race.”

After all the boats headed north upwind from the start on Sunday, June 25, Sodebo Ultim’ missed a shift and tacked late on the second morning at sea and after 36 hours was 60 miles behind, a gap she was never able to close.

But it was only when Macif made it through the complicated ridge of high pressure first, 36 hours before their finish, that Sodebo Ultim’ fell 150 miles behind and out of touch.

“From the start we had a good battle all the way along the coast of France. Then two of our competitors got a small advantage by hooking onto another front and getting away. So, it was difficult later, tactically and strategically to catch up.

“Sometimes you can find a way, but the others really did sail well and François and his team raced brilliantly. Despite him having the lighter and newer boat, you still have to know how to sail it and get the best out of it.

“I’m disappointed about position, I would have like to have won. You don’t know what’s going to happen on a transat, that’s the magic. But we had a really good race, tactically and strategically, I’d do it all again with the same group of guys.”

Actual (Yves Le Blévec), the only trimaran yet to finish, was 352 miles from the finish at the 09:00 (New York time) ranking and is not expected back before Thursday morning (July 6).


Background: The 3,152-mile (5,837 km) Centennial Transat – The Bridge – from Saint-Nazaire to New York started June 25 in France between the Queen Mary 2 (1,132 feet/345m) and four of the largest and fastest trimarans in the world. The ocean liner finished July 1.

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