Alex Thomson praises welcome home calling support ‘incredible’

Alex with the Gosport sea cadets Picture: Keith Woodland (170197-802)
Alex with the Gosport sea cadets Picture: Keith Woodland (170197-802)

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It was a momentous return home for sailing legend Alex Thomson as hundreds of people lined the shore to welcome him back on Saturday.

Families and sailing enthusiasts braced the chilly weather to see the Gosport sailor with the Round Tower in Portsmouth, Gosport ferry pontoon and the Falkland Gardens filled with cheering fans.

More than 30 boats joined Alex on the Solent as he sailed around Spitbank Fort and along Southsea towards Portsmouth Harbour.

Speedboats, yachts, ribs and even a kayaker were keen to show their support and cheer him on.

Alex sailed into the harbour on his Hugo Boss yacht and compared his homecoming to the crowds who met him at the finish line of the Vendee Globe round-the-world race last month.

The 42-year-old told The News: ‘It was a real commitment by the people who met us in the Solent for the parade.

The crowds in Gosport  Picture: Ian Hargreaves (170211-21)

The crowds in Gosport Picture: Ian Hargreaves (170211-21)

‘It was snowing this morning and nearly as cold as when I finished in the Les Sables d’Olonne.

‘Having all the boats meeting us was the same as the race finish – it was a great feeling.

‘But it means an awful lot more coming home here and seeing how many people followed the race and how much they love it.

‘The whole morning was amazing. It is great to get back with so many people making the effort. It is incredible.’

It is great to get back with so many people making the effort. It is incredible

Alex Thomson

As previously reported in The News, Alex finished second in the Vendee Globe after spending 74 days at sea.

It is the joint-highest position a Briton has finished with Alex also breaking world records along the way.

He now holds the record for the furthest distance travelled in 24 hours by a solo sailor. He beat the record of 534.48 miles, set by French sailor Francois Gabart in the 2012/13 Vendee Globe, by notching up 536.8 miles.

He finished the race 16 hours shy of French winner Armel Le Cleac’h with the pair dominating throughout.

Picture: Ian Hargreaves (170211-15)

Picture: Ian Hargreaves (170211-15)

Alex was in the lead before his hydrofoil was ripped off the bottom of his boat and he had problems with his wind instruments.

He said it reduced his speed by up to 30 per cent and his lead quickly fell away.

He adds: ‘Finishing the race second was an amazing achievement but in some ways it was a bit of a missed opportunity.

‘We were in a position to be able to win it but then we hit something and you never know what can happen.

‘But that does mean we will probably have to come back and do it again.’

And the best part of the race: ‘The highlight is always finishing and to be able to get back to my family.

Hugo Boss team members Maddie Gunney and Stephanie Harding handing out flags 
Picture: Ian Hargreaves (170211-02)

Hugo Boss team members Maddie Gunney and Stephanie Harding handing out flags Picture: Ian Hargreaves (170211-02)

‘It is great to be back and get my family back.’

Alex’s family was very much a part of the homecoming with his son Oscar joining him at the helm of the Hugo Boss boat during the parade of sails.

The five-year-old did not leave his dad’s side and was cheering along with the crowds as they sailed towards the Gosport ferry terminal.

Addressing the crowds once on dry land, Alex praised his family and his Alex Thomson Racing team, based in Gosport, for their support.

He says: ‘This is for the whole team. I am out there alone on the boat and get all the glory but the reality is there’s a large group of people who support me and do the work.

‘They deal with the details and like any sport, it’s the details that matter.’

During the homecoming Alex was met by the mayor of Gosport Councillor Lynn Hook and the other borough councillors.

Councillor John Beavis praised Alex and his achievements.

He said: ‘It was a fantastic morning. It turned out better than I thought especially with the weather being awful.

‘The number of people who came to show support is amazing. We are really pleased with how it went.

‘We are all so proud of Alex and his incredible finish in the Vendee Globe. He is an inspiration.’

Supporters from Gosport including council leader Mark Hook, right, greet Alex Thomson Picture: Keith Woodland (170197-625)

Supporters from Gosport including council leader Mark Hook, right, greet Alex Thomson Picture: Keith Woodland (170197-625)