Thousands set to greet Gosport’s sailing hero

Alex Thomson celebrates with flares after returning to Les Sables d'Olonne, France, finishing the Vendee Globe Yacht Race in third place. Picture: Chris Ison/PA Wire.
Alex Thomson celebrates with flares after returning to Les Sables d'Olonne, France, finishing the Vendee Globe Yacht Race in third place. Picture: Chris Ison/PA Wire.
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THOUSANDS of jubilant well-wishers are expected to welcome home triumphant Alex Thomson after he completed a round-the-world sailing race in record breaking time.

Organisers are hoping that supporters will pack Haslar Marina in Gosport at the sailor’s homecoming tomorrow.

As previously reported, the sailor finished third in the solo non-stop Vendee Globe in just 80 days, beating the British record by eight days.

He will lead a parade from Spinnaker Fort at 11am, sailing past Portsmouth Harbour at noon before arriving at the marina.

Once there, he will speak to the waiting crowds from Hugo Boss, the racing yacht he skippered across the globe.

Alex, who was in Germany yesterday meeting staff from sponsors Hugo Boss, said he looks forward to returning to the town he has lived in since 1988.

He said: ‘It’s the perfect place. It’s part of the package that makes the team successful. It’s going to be cool to let people see the boat with the sail up, rather than see it on TV or a video – they can actually see it in real life.

‘It was amazing when I got half-way up the canal when I finished the race, there was a group of people on the left-hand side chanting Gosport.

‘I love the town – the fact it’s close to the water and it’s got a great beach and history.’

He added that since finishing the race he was initially shocked at being around so many people, including wife Kate and two-year-old son Oscar, after he spent 80 days alone at sea.

But Alex was not completely alone as he spoke on video link with both Kate and Oscar and received messages from supporters via Twitter.

Hollywood star Ewan McGregor took to Twitter on Wednesday to congratulate the skipper via the social networking site.

A little closer to home, the pupils of Alverstoke Junior School plan to welcome Alex back with a banner at the celebration.

Marissa Ballard, a year five teacher at the school said staff were encouraging as many pupils as possible to go and that some will follow the parade on parents’ boats.

Cllr Mark Hook, the leader of Gosport Borough Council said he was looking forward to the day.

‘It’s not something you’ll see every day, the race is every four years and there will be a great atmosphere,’ he said.

‘It’s a tremendous achievement by a really nice guy.’