First of all, we offer our sincere congratulations to Alex Thomson for his exploits in the Vendee Globe round-the-world race.
Although congratulations are heartfelt, they can often sound like platitudes after an achievement like this, but there are a few details that bring home what it takes; and most of them revolve around sleep.
Alex Thomson was racing for 74 days, on his own in the boat.
He will have slept for about four or five hours a day, but not all at once. His naps – because it’s almost too grand to call it ‘sleep’ – will therefore have been about 90 minutes a time, day-in, day-out. We mortals may be able to survive one or two days and nights like that and continue to function, but to carry on for two-and-a-half months while in control of a hi-tech, speedy boat is astonishing. It truly deserves to be recognised as an endurance sport.
And we’re not just delighted for Alex himself, but for this area.
The America’s Cup has renewed a focus on sailing on this area, to the benefit of not just fans of the sport, but the region’s profile and its economy.
In matters like this, there’s often a snowball effect, even if unplanned. And indeed, as well as Ben Ainslie Racing’s presence, and Alex across the water in Gosport, in other maritime disciplines we have had the P1 Superstock powerboat racing at Stokes Bay, and the Thundercat events off Southsea in recent years, not to mention Alan Priddy’s Team Britannia’s bid to set a round-the-world powerboat record this year.
Slowly, this area is beginning to host, on a regular basis, sea events which are not just from a naval background. It’s not that we’re ever suggesting we ignore the Royal Navy, but as a coastal city we’d be foolish to restrict ourselves.
So today belongs quite rightly to Alex Thomson, and we should all admire what he has achieved; we also endorse plans for a ‘parade of sails’ on his return. But let’s also hope that it becomes a fillip for our area, raising its profile more generally, and making the sailing world aware that this is an area of champions.