The last time Alex Thomson took part in the Round the Island Race, he collided with a fellow competitor just before the start, damaging his own boat and dismasting the other, and was later disqualified.
With Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton on board, the 2008 accident garnered predictable and widespread headlines.
Since then, however, the Gosport ocean-racing star has done much to shed his incident-prone reputation – not least with a third-place finish this year in the round-the-world Vendée Globe race.
And while the 50-mile round-the-Isle-of-Wight race may pose less of a sailing challenge on board his Open 60, Thomson will be keeping a careful eye on other yachts, before and after tomorrow’s 5am start.
‘I’ve done a few round-the-island races. The last one I did we had a big crash when we had Lewis Hamilton on the boat,’ recalled Thomson.
‘Everyone talks about it as a great day out, the sort of London Marathon of sailing, but there’s going to be 20,000 people out there on a couple of thousand boats, so you have to be very careful.
‘I think it’s great that there is a real mix, and that’s the way sailing should be. But with big ranges of boats – there’s a 100-footer out there and we’re big and fast as well – and our start line will be packed, you’ve got to be aware.’
The race is Thomson’s first competitive outing since the Vendée, and is the start of a summer programme which will take in the Gotland Race in the Baltic, the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Malta-based Middle Sea Race.
Tomorrow’s race, however, looks like it could be a breeze.
‘We’re looking at a northerly wind direction which is really good,’ says Thomson.
‘Not sure we can break records with 20 knots, but if it gets up to 25 you never know.
‘We’ll be looking at around four-and-a-half hours to complete the course.
‘It’s a great direction for our boat, which is designed to go around the world, and we could do it with maybe one gybe and one tack which is amazing.’