Alex Thomson : "Whether I do 2016, I don’t know but I am sure that I’ll do the Vendée Globe again"
Wednesday 30 January 2013 –
All the versions of this article: [English] [français]
Taking third place in the Vendée Globe, the solo non stop race around the world which has dominated his life for the last ten years and which he had twice failed to finish, Alex Thomson set a new non-stop round the world record Record #sailingrecord for a solo British sailor, smashed the existing race record Record #sailingrecord set by Michel Desjoyeaux in 2008-2009, and became only the third ever British skipper to finish on the podium.
His result exorcised many of the ghosts of his past failures, most particularly abandoning his Open 60 in 2006 in the South Indian Ocean when his keel feel off during the Velux 5 Oceans Velux 5 Oceans #Velux5Oceans , retiring from the last two Vendée Globes – the 2008-9 edition after just 24 hours 24 hours 24 hours best distance covered records – and retiring from the 2009 Transat Jacques Vabre Transat Jacques Vabre #TJV2015 after hitting a floating object.
After 80 days at sea Thomson finally enjoyed the traditional Vendée Globe welcome afforded by the thousands who lined the banks of the canal. Three times he has loved the rousing send off on start day, but at last this was the welcome back that he had craved since he first set out on his Open 60 ocean racing career back in 1999. In a warmly received press conference Thomson was thanked for his recent actions in moving to stand by friend and rival Jean-Pierre Dick, shepherding the French skipper who has lost his keel off Virbac-Paprec 3, through a night of brutal winds and big seas before heading north to the finish.
He spoke of the vital repairs he had to make to his hydrogenerators which kept his hopes of finishing alive, of the pleasure in staying with the faster, newer generation of IMOCA Imoca #IMOCA Open 60’s, doggedly hanging on the leaders. And at the end of it all, having finally realised his long held ambition, he made his French hosts smile when he confirmed that he had arrived dreaming only of ‘the golden arches’ longing for a Big Mac and lots of mayonnaise!
Was there a problem with your main sail?
No. Two and half days ago I gybed to come into Les Sables d’Olonne and the forecast was for two periods gusting 50 knots and given that I had just had to finish, with the big waves it was just easier to take the mainsail down and I didn’t have to worry about any accidental gybes.
Does this result make all the adversity and all the hard times worthwhile?
Absolutely, I have spent ten years of my life and ten years of my teams life trying to finish and do well in the Vendée Globe and today is a BIG day for our team. I am very proud of the way the boat was prepared apart from the problems I had with the hydrogenerator. I had very few other problems. I feel like I got the most out of the boat. I feel like I did a good job and that’s important.
Do you have any thoughts on François Gabart’s race?
It’s incredible to do the race in 78 days. Denis Horeau, the Race Director asked me if 77 days was possible and I said, ‘don’t be ridiculous’. But what a great team, Michel Desjoyeaux has basically done it again. I feel for Armel Le Clèac’h coming in second. He should be very proud. He made few mistakes. I feel very honoured to be here in third place after these two great guys.
Did you talk a lot with Mike Golding during the course?
No, Mike and I haven’t had very much contact at all. The first contact was by email just off the coast of Brazil and we have exchanged three or four emails since then. I had an email from Alessandro. When I am in a race it doesn’t feel right to have small talk with the other skippers. In the beginning, in the first month you are so busy you don’t really have time to contact anyone.
As you have had so many problems with your hydrogenerators and Javier Sanso is sailing successfully with no fuel, using solar panels, would you consider a solar panel solution for your next campaign?
Generating power is extremely important on an IMOCA Imoca #IMOCA Open 60 Javier Sanso is leading the way for our boats to become clean and it’s very admirable of him. When the next Vendée Globe happens we will look at solar, hydro, wind. We will look at all the options available and come up with a solution that will maybe get us all the way around the world most efficiently. That’s what we did this time. For this race, for us to go solar would have been a risk. We chose a solution that had some miles. We chose hydrogenerators that had been around the world already and we had heard good reports. We felt that we were taking a conservative option. I think we as a team made the right choice to take enough fuel for half the race. I still have a few litres in the boat. Maybe I went too heavy. Next time, we’ll just have to look. The great thing is that Javier is out there testing a solution. To be able to go around the world with no fuel will be a remarkable achievement.
Now that you have ticked the box of completing the course, is it now your ambition to win the Vendée Globe and bring the crown back to Great Britain in 2016?
Competing in the Vendée Globe and being part of a team that aspires to be in this race is all consuming. You give up your life to be able to do it and there are some fantastic positives with it and there are also some negatives as well. I love doing it and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Whether I do 2016, I don’t know but I am sure that I’ll do the Vendée Globe again.
We hear an awful lot about the hard days but can you tell us about the great days and what goes on in them?
I love the special moments when the sun comes up, the stars are really bright, I love seeing the dolphins, the flying fish. That’s all cool. I like it but the great moments are when the scheds come in and you are making miles. And the bad moments are when you are losing miles. For me I am in this for the competition. It’s brutal, it’s tough and the positives are when you are doing well and that’s why I am in it.
Obviously you had issues with your hydrogenerators, did you ever think that you would not make it round? Tell us about your mindset when you were having to go through it all.
I knew that I would get around the world. There was never really a moment when I thought I wouldn’t get round. There were several stages each time I had a problem. First, of all get the boat back on the track and stop losing miles and then work out how to fix the problem afterwards. The second time it happened I was in the Southern Ocean so that making a repair in the next month or so was going to be very hard and I guess it seemed like it dragged on and on and on whereas for me I just had to wait. There was never a time where I thought I wouldn’t finish.
What is the best memory you have from this round the world race?
“The best memory from this round the world is to finally arrive in Les Sables d’Olonne and see the welcome. When you describe the start of the race they cant believe it, but so far I have never been able to describe the finish and I look forwards to now being able to tell people about it now.”
View online : Info presse www.alexthomsonracing.com
Also in this section
Vendée Globe : Armel Le Cléac’h, second of the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe
Vendée Globe : François Gabart has won the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe
Solo around the world : Solo skipper Guo Chuan became the first Chinese to round Cape Horn
Construction navale : CDK Technologies, the other winner of the Vendée Globe