The weather may have been cold, bleak, overcast and unforgiving – but that only made the welcome that Alex Thomson received on Saturday all the warmer from those shivering on the waterside.
Alex’s achievements well warrant the coverage afforded to him today. We should not forget that the Vendee Globe round-the-world race, which he finished a fortnight ago, is regularly described as the toughest sailing competition on the planet.
He was on his own for 74 days, with only a few hours’ sleep a day, and even that had to be taken in short bursts as he could not give up control of the boat for extended periods of time. And he was racing against the best in the world while doing this. To put a bit of extra context, Alex finished on January 20, and the race is still going on for some competitors.
It’s great that Alex has associated himself so strongly with Gosport – he is a freeman of the borough and has been based in the town for years. And we hope that his achievements inspire children, who may have watched him come in to a hero’s welcome on Saturday morning, to want to try out sailing, whether as a hobby or in connection with a career.
It’s wrong to only think of achievements and events solely in terms of economic benefits –we’d like to think that the joy derived from pursuing sailing as a leisure pursuit is an end in itself, not a springboard to somehow contribute to the area’s Gross Value Added cash-generating indicators. However, how this does fit with a wider picture is that there are serious and viable plans to make this area a centre of maritime excellence, with that encompassing engineering and technological progress as well as all the associated industries surrounding sailing.
Having competitively-successful enterprises such as Ben Ainslie Racing and Alex Thomson Racing only increases the likelihood of that –and that would be a benefit to generations growing up here.
For now, though, it’s enough to celebrate the joint-best ever British performance in the Vendee Globe – Alex, congratulations and welcome home.