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Alex Thomson sets new world speed sailing record

by Mary Ambler 12 Dec 2003 11:02 GMT
Alex Thomson sets a new 24hr solo monohull record © AT Racing


Défi Atlantique: DAY 12
12th December 2003
Race Leader: AT Racing (Thomson GBR) – 2.2m ahead of PRB (Riou FRA)
AT Racing Location: to the South East of the Azores.
Miles to La Rochelle finish line: 1257m


11/12/03 – 04.44 GMT Position of AT Racing: 29° 58 20 N 31° 01 32 W
12/12/03 – 04:42 GMT Position of AT Racing: 35° 05 32 N 24° 00 96 W

  • No. of miles covered in 24hr period: 466m
  • Conditions for 24hr period: 30-35 knots, gusting 40, from SSE – S, perfect swell
  • Average boat speed in 24hr period: 19.4 knots
  • Sailing angle: ideal – power reaching between 060° - 040°
  • No. of sail changes: 6 headsail changes, with 1 reef in the mainsail
  • Body fuel: tuna and Hellmann’s mayo sarnies, chocolate, chicken & mash, Lucozade Sport
  • Hours sleep: None at all!

Christmas has definitely come early for Alex Thomson, the 29yr old rookie Open 60 solo skipper from Gosport. At the 0500 GMT position reports this morning, not only did he take back the lead of the Défi Atlantique solo transatlantic race on ‘AT Racing’ from French skipper Vincent Riou on the Vendée Globe winning boat ‘PRB’, but, subject to ratification by the World Speed Sailing Record Council, Thomson has just destroyed the current World Monohull Solo 24hr Record by as much as 32 miles!

Alex Thomson was reached on his satellite phone on board his Open 60 AT Racing, on which he is currently qualifying for next year’s Vendée Globe in this solo transatlantic race: “My main objective was to regain the lead of the race, so I pushed reasonably hard from my Westerly position, and over the last four days have enjoyed exceptional sailing conditions South of the Azores. I knew I could be on for the record yesterday afternoon when I was sure that I was well positioned in this band of strong wind. So to find out this morning that I have passed into the lead of a fleet made up of the best Open 60 skippers on the circuit is superb, but to have broken the 24hr solo record – and by so much – is an amazing bonus. All I need now is a sponsor! If someone had told me before I could average over 19 knots boat speed for that long I’d tell them they were lying, but now I know I can get more out of the boat!”

“I’m absolutely knackered! I’ve been running on adrenalin and spending at least 70 percent of my time on deck, surviving on tuna and Hellmann’s sarnies, a lot of Lucozade Sport. This doesn’t distract me from the goal of this race, to finish the race and qualify for the Vendée Globe, but I’m enjoying the extras along the way!”

Alex Thomson was the youngest skipper ever to win a Round-The-World yacht race, when he won Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s Clipper 98 race, but now this accolade will be overwritten with that of World Record Breaker. The current record stands at 434m (18.1 knots) and was set by the boat’s previous skipper, Frenchman Roland Jourdain, during the 2000/1 Vendée Globe. Thomson intends to claim this record with a mileage of 466 miles at an average boat speed of 19.4 knots, between 0444 GMT on 11th and 12th December.

Alex Thomson, 29 yr old solo skipper from Gosport, set up his company AT Racing with Keith Mills, CEO of the London 2012 Olympic bid, which is actively looking for a title sponsor for his Vendée Globe 2004 campaign. Alex launched his campaign after buying the current Open 60 World Champion boat ‘Sill’ to begin training and racing a whole year ahead of the solo, non-stop round the world Vendée Globe yacht race, in which fellow Brit Ellen MacArthur made her name when she came 2nd in 2001.

Just 24 days ago, Alex Thomson became the first Briton and took 2nd place overall with World Champion, Frenchman Roland Jourdain, in the Open 60 class of the classic two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre race from Le Havre, France to Salvador, Brazil. Thomson then took over the boat, re-named it AT Racing whilst still on the sponsorship trail, and set off on his first ever solo transatlantic race, the Défi Atlantique, from Salvador to La Rochelle, France, which is one of only two qualification events for next year’s Vendée Globe. In both races he has been the rookie up against the world’s best solo skippers, and has come ahead of other renowned British solo skipper Mike Golding on his brand new Open 60 Ecover.

Alex Thomson should arrive in La Rochelle from Tuesday 16th December at the finish of the Défi Atlantique, and the final 1257 miles will be a drag race down to the wire with French skipper Vincent Riou on the ex-Vendée Globe winning boat PRB with just 2.2 miles separating these two boats in terms of distance to finish.

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