Gosport sailor Alex Thompson hailed for his incredible second in the Vendee Globe

HE IS a true hero whose exploits fill us with pride.

Saturday, 21st January 2017, 6:00 am
Gosport's Alex Thomson is watched by his wife Kate, son Oscar and daughter Georgia, as he celebrates with champagne after finishing second in the Vendee Globe race Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

That is the message from people across the area as Alex Thomson yesterday finished the round-the-world Vendee Globe race.

Alex, who lives in Gosport, finished second – the best he has placed in the round-the-world yacht race. His achievement matches Dame Ellen MacArthur as the best ever Briton in the race as she also finished runner-up in 2001.

The 42-year-old crossed the finish line at Les Sables d’Olonne at 7.40am, clocking a time of 74d 19h 35m 15s and describing it as an ‘amazing feeling.’

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Alex finished just shy of 16 hours behind winner Armel Le Cleac’h, with the pair pulling well clear of the rest of the field, and made the final few days of the race a thrilling finish to the line.

He was met by supporters from his team along with wife Kate and children Oscar and Georgia.

And among the first people offering the dad-of-two congratulations was Prince Harry.

The royal sent a text to Sir Keith Mills, the chairman of Team Origin, which organised the America’s Cup regattas in Portsmouth last year and in 2015,

He knows Alex after they sailed together in the Clipper Round the World Yacht race.

Sir Keith said: ‘He (Prince Harry) sent me a text saying “pass on my admiration for what an extraordinary job he has done”.

‘Everyone in the UK has really got behind Alex.’

People from Gosport took to social media to shower him in praise and offer their congratulations.

Gosport Borough Councillor John Beavis, advisor for Gosport Marine Scene, said Alex’s achievement was incredible.

‘He is such a fine example to young people,’ he said.

‘We are so proud of our Alex and he has placed Gosport firmly on the map.

‘It’s amazing that he kept going despite problems with the boat and worked hard even though he had hardly any sleep.

‘We’re all so excited to welcome him back.’

Cllr Beavis, who presented Alex with the Freeman of the Borough title during his year as mayor of Gosport, added they are hoping to do a ‘parade of sails’ to welcome Alex home.

He said: ‘It’s right that everyone gets the chance to share in his achievement.’

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage added: ‘Second place in a race as tough as the Vendee Globe is a remarkable achievement.

‘He is Gosport’s true hero and a massive inspiration.’

As reported in The News, Alex broke a world record this week for the further distance travelled solo in 24 hours. He covered 536.8 miles.

Early on in the race, the hydrofoil was ripped off the bottom of his boat and he had problems with his wind instruments.

But despite this, in the past few days of the race he managed to half the distance between himself and 
eventual winner Le Cleac’h.

Alex had been at sea for 74 days for the solo race but made sure he checked in with the Alex Thomson Racing Supporters’ Club, based at the Seahorse pub, in Gosport, which is owned by his brother David.

Every Wednesday, he called them via a satellite phone to give them updates.

Assistant manager of the pub Tracey Croucher said: ‘Before he left he came into the pub to give a talk and we have been following him since he left.

‘We’re all absolutely over-joyed by what he’s achieved – we couldn’t be prouder.

‘He is a Gosport lad doing his bit for the town and his country.’

Speaking after finishing second on his Hugo Boss boat, Alex said: ‘I gave it my best shot, but it wasn’t to be this time.’

Sailing legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston praised Alex for completing what he called ‘the toughest sporting challenge in the world’.

He said: ‘It is disappointing that the broken hydrofoil cost him the victory.

‘To close the gap on a top solo sailor is an achievement.

‘Spending two-and-a-half months with little sleep, a lot of pressure and constantly pushing the boat to top speeds is really hard.

Sir Robin added: ‘It is fantastic that the Portsmouth area is becoming a centre of excellence.

‘We have got Sir Ben Ainslie doing the day racing and Alex doing the long-distance marathons.’

Cllr Mark Hook, leader of Gosport Borough Council, also congratulated Alex on his achievement and believes the area could get a boost from it.

Cllr Hook said: ‘It was a very exciting race.’

‘It was very unlucky for Alex to come just 100 miles short, considering the race was 24,500 miles long.

‘It is a tremendous achievement nonetheless.

‘He is a great credit not just to the nation, but to Gosport as well.

‘It gives the area a tremendous boost and it will be a great lift.

‘It shows that sailing in the Solent, and in particular Gosport, is well regarded and there’s no doubt that others will want to come and join in.’

Alex Thomson Racing is based at Haslar Marina in Gosport.