Why round the world sailing star Alex is taking inspiration from Leicester’s 2016 Premier League title win

Gosport sailor Alex Thomson says tales of Leicester City’s shock Premier League title success have aided his ongoing mental preparation for the world's toughest yacht race.

Friday, 25th October 2019, 1:20 pm
Alex Thomson

Skipper Thomson is set to embark on a maiden competitive voyage aboard the £5.5million boat he hopes can end his wait for glory in the solo, around-the-world Vendee Globe.

The 45-year-old, who this Sunday begins the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre warm-up event from France to Brazil, regularly works with psychologist Ken Way to focus and train his mind.

Way was part of Claudio Ranieri's backroom staff when the Foxes defied 5000/1 odds to be crowned champions in 2016, and Thomson has taken plenty of inspiration from stories of one of sport's most unexpected triumphs.

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‘We've talked about that quite a lot, learnt lots of interesting stuff out of it,’ Thomson said.

‘It reinforces the ability that Ken has when people buy into the thinking and the possibility of making gains through your mental attitude and mental techniques to improve your sport.

‘In this particular case with what we do, there are so many tools, so many possibilities to make improvements, so it's a really fascinating subject.

‘For me, the Vendee is as much a mental game as a physical, maybe even more so. Training your mind - and I can't understand why you wouldn't do it - it's an absolute no-brainer.

‘But each to their own. I very much enjoy working with Ken and find what we work out not only helps me with the race but helps me be a better human being, so it's all good.’

The 4,350-mile TJV, sponsored by a French coffee company, follows a former trading route, beginning in the Normandy port of Le Havre before crossing the equator to finish in the Brazilian city of Salvador.

It will provide the first test of Thomson's latest custom-built Hugo Boss boat, named after his team's principal sponsor and christened on the river Thames last month.

Thomson, who will compete alongside former Olympic sailor Neal McDonald, capsized off the north coast of Spain and was airlifted to safety the last time he entered the TJV.

With the long-term aim of becoming the first non-French winner of the gruelling non-stop Vendee Globe - the next edition of which starts in November 2020 - his primary objectives during the forthcoming fortnight are a safe passage to South America and developing a greater understanding of his new vessel.

‘It's about the bigger picture. That's the main thing. If we can avoid a big problem and get to the finish, that's the first objective,’ said Thomson, who finished second in the 2016-17 Vendee and third in 2012-13.

‘The second objective is to make sure we get enough information to inform the next choices that we want to make, the next developments.

‘These are prototype boats, there are always little niggles and stuff to improve and stuff that doesn't quite work from the very beginning.

‘If you think about Formula One, the cars are launched and by the end of the season they are completely different because they are being developed and changed all the time to try and make then go faster and that's exactly the same for us.

‘We expect in a year's time we will be 10 or 15 per cent faster than we are now.’