Thomson prepares for busy period on the water

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ALEX THOMSON is preparing for a busy period on the water after coming to terms with his Barcelona World Race ‘devastation’.

Gosport sailor Thomson admitted experiencing ‘every kind of emotion’ when a rigging failure saw his and fellow skipper Pepe Ribes’ mast fall overboard in the South Atlantic Ocean last month.

The Hugo Boss duo’s frustrations were compounded by the fact they were clear race leaders off the Brazil coast in the prestigious non-stop round-the-world yacht race.

Thomson said: ‘I had every kind of emotion when the rigging failed.

‘Grief as it happened, determination as we made the boat safe, anger in the mechanical failure and disappointment at having to retire.

‘Pepe and I were sailing brilliantly at the time.

‘We had beaten the race record to the Straits of Gibraltar and then followed this up with a race record to the Equator.

‘Hugo Boss was performing beautifully and the records demonstrated that the time we had spent preparing the boat and training together was producing excellent results.

‘There was no amount of preparation or training that could have prevented this happening.

‘Yes, it’s frustrating and at the time I was furious.

‘But this is an extreme sport and when you are offshore in extreme conditions, things happen.’

Thomson and Ribes, who arrived safely in Salvador, Brazil, have now turned their attentions to a busy upcoming schedule of racing.

Indeed, work on a new boat is already under way on the south coast, with the upcoming Transat Jaques Vabre – an event Thomson finished in second place in 2011 and 2004 – the team’s primary focus.

‘The focus is the new boat which will launch this summer in time for the Transat Jaques Vabre (TJV), which is part of the Ocean Masters Championships,’ said Thomson.

‘This is a transatlantic, dual-handed race which will start in the autumn in Le Havre, France, and finish in Itajai in Brazil.

‘We then race back across the Atlantic in the winter in the ‘B to B’ race, starting in St Barths in the Caribbean and finishing in Brest, France.

‘We have a busy couple of years racing ahead of us.’

It was third-time unlucky at the Barcelona World Race for Thomson, who finished second in the inaugural event in 2007, before failing to get off the start line in 2011 because of appendicitis.

And although the pain of failure is still raw, Thomson was able to take a final, philosophic view on what happened during the event a fortnight ago.

He added: ‘Pepe and I were doing a sail change in 18 knots of wind.

‘As we dropped one of our headsails the furler broke and flew into the air.

‘For a few seconds the mast hovered, before falling backwards and into the water.

‘Pepe reacted quickly and we cut the rest away, losing the mast, boom and rigging.

‘Of course, we are devastated and disappointed.

‘As offshore ocean-racing sailors this is a peril of our sport, but it is still painful.’