Boatshed meets.... Alex Thompson
Alex Thomson has just completed the NY Vendee, sailing single handed 3100nm non stop and finishing a very respectable third place. Currently in training for the Vendee Globe this November, he took time out of his busy schedule to chat to Sam from Boatshed Performance and answer a few of her questions.
Boatshed Sam: Hi Alex, thanks for chatting to Boatshed, what is your first memory of boating?
Alex: Hi Sam, I first got into watersports when I tried windsurfing at the age of eleven. From the first time out on the water, I just felt at home. From there, I tried any and all watersports, including kitesurfing, wakeboarding and of course sailing.
Boatshed Sam: And what would you say has been your best experience on a boat?
Alex: That has to be finishing third in the 2012-2013 Vendee Globe. The race is a solo, unassisted round the world mission which takes place every four years and in my opinion it remains one of, if not the, toughest sporting challenges there is.
People often call it ‘the Everest’ of sailing, but over 3000 people have climbed Everest and less than 100 people have completed the Vendee, so being amongst that short list of people is something I am proud of. My biggest ambition though is to become the first Briton, in fact the first non-Frenchman, to win the race. I was pleased with my third place finish last time, but the ultimate goal is to better that and to get myself to the top of the podium. That is what I am focused on as I head in to the next Vendee which gets underway this November.
Boatshed Sam: What would you say has been your worst experience on a boat?
Alex: During the Velux Five Oceans in 2006 the keel on Hugo Boss broke when I was more than 1,000 miles from land in the Southern Ocean. A temporary repair wasn't enough to provide a solution and I was forced to abandon the race, as it was just not safe to continue. But when you're in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by nothing but water, it's not just a case of giving up and going home. The nearest competitor in the water was my British opponent, Mike Golding, who was about 70-80 miles away. He was informed by race control of what had happened to me and he turned around and came to my rescue, which meant battling some serious headwinds. Even when Mike was able to reach me, the rescue was far from easy. We spent one night within close proximity to one another, aware that the conditions made a rescue attempt that evening too dangerous. The following morning I left HUGO BOSS and launched myself into a life raft with a survival suit on. The water was freezing and I knew that if I was exposed to it, I'd have a matter of minutes before my body would start to shut down. We also battled with engine problems and 15 foot swells which made everything so much harder. After four hours we finally managed to maneuver ourselves to allow for me to be pulled into Mike's boat. I came out of it alive, and that was the main thing. But nonetheless, it was a pretty terrifying experience.
I am driven when racing offshore to survive, that is the focus on the whole time you are racing.
Boatshed Sam: Do you have a Personal hero?
Alex: My favourite motto is that ‘to finish first, first you have to finish’, which couldn’t be more apt in an unpredictable sport like offshore sailing. These words of wisdom were given to me by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who over the years has become my mentor and great friend. Robin was the first person ever to sail single-handedly non-stop around the world, and this was back in 1969, before much of the technology we use on today’s racing yacht was in use. It was an incredible achievement and one that I admire hugely.
Boatshed Sam: Have you ever been given some excellent advice that you'd like to pass on to others?
Alex:When I first started sailing solo, my mentor Sir Keith Mills gave me a picture of a sailing boat which quotes ‘R.I.S.K – You cannot discover new oceans , unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.’
Boatshed Sam: What is your favourite boat and why?
My favourite boat is HUGO BOSS. She has been made specifically for me and designed with my needs in mind as I prepare for the start of the Vendee Globe on the 6th November.
Boatshed Sam: If you were on a desert island, who would you take with you?
I would take my wife and children; my family are the most important people to me.
Boatshed Sam: Whats your favourite anchorage?
My top choice perhaps surprisingly is, Jersey. I love the Channel Islands, particularly Jersey as I have a number of family connections there. Saint Helier is a great town with some outstanding restaurants, especially if you’re a lobster fan. I love fishing off the coast in the Les Ecréhous islets. My grandfather built a wooden fishing hut out there and we still use it to this day.
Anchoring in warmer climes, I’m a big fan of Ibiza. Most people associate the island with nightclubs, but I’ve never been to one. I always stay with friends on the north coast and I’d recommend a day trip out to Formentera. It’s a beautiful, chilled out little island with the most amazing sunsets.
Boatshed Sam: If you could only do one voyage, where would your destination be?
Home, I travel a lot with work and really appreciate my time at home so this is where I would head if I could only choose one destination.
We'd like to thank Alex Thomson for taking the time to chat to Boatshed, where the whole team wish them all the best in your training and for the Vendee Globe this November.
As well as sailing, Alex like to have fun on and around Hugo Boss - below are video's of his 2012 Keel Walk, 2014 Mast Walk and his latest 2016 Sky Walk.
Alex Thomson Racing partners with Hugo Boss, Mercedes Benz, BASF, Gleistein Ropes, Crewsaver, Haydale and Bainbridge International.