Alex’s feat can help to inspire new generation

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Zella had a fantastic day at Titchfield Haven and wonders what other local gems she's overlooked      Picture: Gary Taw

ZELLA COMPTON: Looking afresh at our beautiful spot in the world

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It was Phileas Fogg who famously travelled around the world in 80 days in Jules Verne’s classic novel.

Well, Gosport-based sailor Alex Thomson has now single-handedly circumnavigated the globe for real in the same time-frame.

His third place in what is the sailing world’s toughest challenge – and arguably the biggest sporting challenge full stop – is a reward for his refusal to give up on a dream.

Alex’s previous two attempts to complete the Vendee Globe ended in failure.

But this time he took on the elements and made it through to the finish at Les Sables d’Olonne in France in a podium position, less than three days behind winning French skipper Francois Gabart.

Not only that, but 38-year-old Alex on board Hugo Boss smashed the British record for sailing around the world solo by a full eight days.

That is some feat and we salute him.

In this part of the world we have plenty of reason to be proud of our top sailors.

They are fine ambassadors and it was great to see Alex arrive into port shouting the name of his home town before holding aloft a red flare, hugging and kissing his wife Kate and being reunited with his two-year-old son Oscar.

Throughout the voyage, pupils at Alverstoke Junior School in Gosport have excitedly followed his progress in lessons.

Sailing around the world in a race may have a romantic image, but the people who actually do it know different.

As Alex says succinctly, it’s ‘brutal’.

As well as having to fix electricity-producing hydrogenerators twice, Alex had to contend with 40-knot winds and eight-metre waves.

For a month, reduced power meant he had only limited email contact with his family and team.

But he made it through and we hope his achievement is an inspiration to the next generation of sailors who may one day follow in Alex’s wake and leave behind the Solent to take on the world’s unforgiving oceans.