Alex Thomson returned to action in the iconic Fastnet Race yesterday.
More than 400 boats took to the start line in Cowes to compete in what remains the world’s largest offshore sailing contest.
The 600-nautical-mile race takes boats from the Solent, through the English Channel and around the Fastnet Rock, finishing just off the coast of Plymouth.
It is Thomson’s 10th Fastnet race – and the Gosport skipper’s competitive return to action following his historic second place in the Vendée Globe earlier this year.
Joining Thomson onboard his record breaking HUGO BOSS IMOCA 60 race boat is Irish sailor Nicholas O’Leary, who will take the role of co-skipper for the double-handed race.
O’Leary, a young talent in short-handed ocean racing, has ambitions to take on the non-stop, solo, round the world Vendée Globe race in the future and will therefore be utilising the Fastnet as a key opportunity to gain valuable insight and advice from Thomson.
Thomson said: ‘I’m excited to be back racing in the Fastnet and it’s great to see a good turnout of IMOCA boats on the start line, with some new competitors on the circuit.
‘It’s fantastic for the sport to see so many boats on the water.’
The Fastnet is a notoriously testing race, even for the most experienced of offshore sailors, and often sees winds up to gale force in strength.
The conditions at the race start presented an event greater challenge for those, like Thomson and O’Leary, racing in the IMOCA class.
Ross Daniel, technical director at Alex Thomson Racing, said: ‘With the current upwind forecast, the conditions from the start to the Fastnet Rock are not favourable for the foiling IMOCAs.
‘The challenge will be staying in contention.
‘Then the foiling boats will come into their own in the reaching conditions to the finish in Plymouth.’
Earlier this week, Thomson – who broke his own record as the fastest Brit to sail solo around the world on a monohull in the 2016-17 Vendee Globe and holds the world sailing speed 24-hour distance record – was awarded the Chichester Trophy at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes.