Yachting: Frenchman given hero's welcome after new solo record

French skipper Thomas Coville navigates aboard his multihull "Sodebo Ultim" on Oct 12, 2016 off La Trinite-sur-Mer, western France.
French skipper Thomas Coville navigates aboard his multihull "Sodebo Ultim" on Oct 12, 2016 off La Trinite-sur-Mer, western France. PHOTO: AFP

BREST, France (AFP) - Frenchman Thomas Coville was given a hero's welcome on his return to the French port of Brest on Monday (Dec 26) after slashing the record for a solo non-stop circumnavigation of the world.

Coville broke the record on Sunday (Dec 25), completing his journey in 49 days, three hours, seven minutes and 38 seconds on his trimaran Sodebo Ultim.

"I am very happy to have achieved this dream," said a tearful Coville, who had tried and failed on four previous occasions to beat the round-the-world record.

The 48-year-old Breton sailor reached the finish line off France's Atlantic coast at 1557 GMT on Christmas Day and spent a final night on his giant trimaran "unwinding".

"The biggest dreams don't come true at the first time of asking," he added as he was greeted by thousands of fans on a sunny day in the Brittany city.

Coville, whose wife and children joined him on board for the triumphal return to land on Monday morning, shaved an incredible eight days off the previous record set by Francis Joyon, of 57 days and 13 hours.

"Physically, I couldn't go any further. Several times I was within a whisker of not doing it.

"What I'll take from this isn't the 49 days, it's the journey I've travelled to achieve it, to have tried, to have dared and not to have given up.

"And today, it's paid off."

"He's a hero," said Denis Gourlan, 64, among the crowd quayside to welcome Coville.

"It's really extraordinary what he's done," he added.

Joyon had initially set the record for the single-handed round the world effort in 2004 before Britain's Ellen MacArthur beat his mark the following year. Joyon then reclaimed the mark in 2008.

Coville's record will stand at least until next year when his compatriot, Francois Gabart, the winner of the 2012/2013 Vendee globe, will set out to lower his impressive record.