SAILING legend Alex Thomson has described the ‘amazing feeling’ after crossing the finish line of the epic Vendee Globe chase in second this morning.
The 42-year-old from Gosport crossed the finish line at Les Sables d’Olonne at around 7.40am.
He finishes behind winner Armel Le Cleac’h, who crossed the line yesterday. Speaking to reporters for the first time after the mammoth race, he said: ‘It feels absolutely fantastic to get to the finish. ‘It is an amazing feeling really to finally be here.
‘[Over the race] I hoped and I prayed that I would be able to win.
‘I spent the whole race wondering “what if” but big congratulations to Armel. He is a machine and I am very happy to finish in second place.’
He added that he had struggled with sleep over the last few days, only catching three hours within the last 72 hours and that he had not managed to catch any sleep within the last 24 hours.
Reflecting on the race, he said: ‘I had moments of difficulty but I tried to be as positive as possible. It was not an easy race.’
When asked on his plans for the next few days, he said: ‘I just want to sleep! I want to sleep for as long as I possibly can and have my life back with my family. That’s probably what I am most looking forward to.’
He also said that he’d be interested in competing in the Vendee Globe again in the future.
Alex had been battling problems with the wind instruments on his 60ft race boat Hugo Boss for the last few days.
The sailor smashed the world record for the greatest distance sailed in 24 hour last week, notching up 536.8 miles in one day.
Thomson, who was within touching distance of beating his French rival, missed out on a Vendee Globe win because of damage to his boat, his team said.
Despite setting a new world record for the most distance sailed solo in 24 hours, and at one point halving the 70-mile lead of Armel Le Cleac’h, Thomson looks set for second place.
With the eighth edition of single-handed offshore racing’s ultimate test coming to a close, 74 days after 29 skippers set sail from Les Sables d’Olonne - Le Cleac’h is poised for victory.
The technical director of Thomson’s Hugo Boss team, Ross Daniel, said there will be “lots of hugs and well dones” when he is expected to cross the finish line off the western coast of France more than 12 hours after his rival.
He said the race result “100%” would have been different if the hydrofoil had not been ripped off the Welshman’s boat by a submerged object early in the race.
“If it didn’t happen then we would have been finished days ago, without a doubt ... the story would have been very different but that’s what happens, it is part of our sport,” Mr Daniel said.
“The fact he has managed to continue without it, and we have still been challenging right the way up until today for first place, is unbelievable.”
He added: “Winning it would have made the story very different - (but) I think it is a success story.
“Where we were a year ago, to get this far with such problems is good, and we have got to be proud of what we have done.”
The race has not been plain sailing for Thomson who also had issues with the wind instruments on his 60ft race boat - preventing the autopilot working properly.
His boat, which is made entirely out of carbon fibre, took a year to construct, cost more than £3.5 million to build and costs £1.5 million a year to run.
Mr Daniel said inside it is “very basic” to the point they do not paint it because of the weight that would add - and there is no toilet, no proper cooking facilities and a moveable mattress.
“It is a bare carbon, black hole,” he said, adding that despite the setbacks Thomson will “definitely” be considering a fifth attempt to become the first Brit to win the race.
Thomson was greeted as he returned to Les Sables d’Olonne by his wife Kate and two children Oscar, six and Georgia, two.
Mrs Thomson, 36, said she has managed contact “most days” with her husband while he has been away sailing nearly 25,000 nautical miles since the race began on November 6.
She said: “I am really, really excited to be seeing Alex, a little bit nervous, I think it is just the final part of a big, big long adventure and we are just so proud of him.
“I think Alex has coped amazingly with what has happened during this race. It is typical of Alex, he just bounces back from these things - I don’t know how he does it.
“I think that is why he has managed to do it four times now.”
Quizzed about any plans they have as a family once the race is finished, she revealed they would be going on a sailing holiday to the Caribbean.
Thomson finished the Vendee Globe in third place in the 2012 edition and is on track to better that result.
Dame Ellen MacArthur is to date the most successful British sailor in the event’s history, after finishing second in 2001.
Both Thomson and Le Cleac’h will beat the previous circumnavigation record of 78 days set by Frenchman Francois Gabert in the 2012-2013 edition of the race.