Thomson wants to reach Cape Horn

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Sir Ben Ainslie

Ainslie on a mission for Queen and county

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Mike Golding says if he was a betting man he’d be putting his money on his friend and rival Alex Thomson to win the Vendée Globe.

Golding then rather downgrades the compliment to the Gosport racer, adding: ‘If I was betting money I’d put it on Alex – I think you’d get long odds, it’d be a good bet.’

What he means, of course, is that Thomson does not go to the start as one of the favourites to win the single-handed round-the-world race which begins next weekend.

Thomson himself has lowered his sights, at least publicly, about his prospects on this third tilt at the Vendée aboard Hugo Boss.

‘The first time was all about winning,’ said the 38 year-old.

‘The second time was about being at the start.

‘Now I am focused on finishing.

‘I think my biggest fear will be not to finish.’

First time out, in the 2004/2005 edition, Thomson was forced to retire after rigging failure punched a hole in his deck.

In the next race in 2008 bad luck – of which Thomson has had more than his fair share – came in the form of a fishing boat which smashed into his Open 60 before the start of the race.

Thomson’s Hugo Boss shore team won the race against time to get him on the line but he was again forced into retirement.

In between, he was rescued from his sinking yacht on the 2006 Velux 5 Oceans, by Golding, the two previously frosty rivals becoming friends as a result.

On the positive side of the Thomson ledger, he has been runner-up in two double-handed races – the 2008 Barcelona World Race and last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre.

He also added to his string of world sailing records when he smashed the single-handed trans-Atlantic record in July.

While there has never been any doubt that Thomson knows how to put the hammer down, he now has to prove he knows when to back off.

Perhaps in recognition of this, his goals for the race are simple.

He added: ‘Just to finish. I think if you finish you have a chance to win. I have to finish.

‘I have never seen the Cape Horn on the Vendée.

‘I’ve invested 10 years of my life in training to win and compete in the Vendée Globe.

‘You never know if this is going to be my last Vendée. I hope not.

‘I just want to be able to say: “I’ve sailed around the world on my own. I was number 18 or whatever the number is”. That’s what I do. And it’s important, not only for me, but my team, my family, the sponsors.’

Long odds for sure, a dark horse perhaps, but if he can combine his speed with caution he may well be in the frame at the finish in three months’ time.

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