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Shirley Robertson talks with top shorthanded trans-oceanic racer, Alex Thomson

by Shirley Robertson 9 Mar 2023 05:26 GMT 9 March 2023
Alex Thomson ceases racing in the Vendée Globe © Alex Thomson Racing

Shirley Robertson's Sailing Podcast continues this month with one of offshore sailing's most active campaigners, a sailor who's career spans two decades at the highest level of the sport and includes a record equaling five Vendee Globe starts.

Alex Thomson, widely known for his Vendee campaigns sailing a series of iconic Hugo Boss IMOCA, has done much to raise awareness of offshore sailing and with his team, has been responsible for some of the most innovative developments the monohull IMOCA Class has ever seen.

Obviously, much of Thomson's discussion in this two part podcast centres around his various Vendee Globe campaigns, but there's also much discussion about Thomson's remarkable career path, time spent sailing with Sir Robin Knox Johnston and the result of his time spent with British business tycoon Sir Keith Mills...:

"We met at Shoreham airport, we flew to Brest, and he bought me a boat for 1.1million Euros....That level of belief, in me, at that time, was difficult to comprehend really."

Thomson is candid about his first campaign, as he is throughout the chat with Robertson, and reveals much about how, along with Sir Keith Mills, they brought Hugo Boss into what would go on to become one of the longest sponsorship partnerships in the sport.

Thomson has also had an eventful career that's involved a series of very high profile sinkings and race retirements, not least when keel damage to the original Hugo Boss famously left him floundering deep in the South Atlantic. But the drama doesn't end with keel damage.

Having discussed the cause of a very public falling out with fellow British offshore sailor Mike Golding, "...the next day in the Sunday Times, Mike called me a jumped up little prick!", Thomson discusses how, with his keel dangling uselessly from the hull, the only chance of rescue was of course, with Mike Golding, who pulled off a daring rescue with catastrophic circumstances...:

"I was on the boat for about three hours...the wind hit, the boat leaned over, and his mast just collapsed, Mike is standing in the cockpit with his mouth open, and I'm now feeling guilty...I said to Mike, 'I am so sorry..."

Thomson's memories of the daring rescue, Golding's unfaltering seamanship and the awkward incidents that followed is a first hand account of offshore folklore not to be missed. It's a fascinating tale told by one of only two people that were actually there.

There is of course much chat between the pair of Thomson's sailing adventures, but also of his series of daring stunts that have netted him over 10million views on YouTube alone. The evolution of the idea, the execution of the stunts themselves and Thomson's desire to bring new audiences to his offshore campaigns are all talked through in this revealing chat...:

"Hugo Boss had done a trick shot video with Martin Kymer, the German golfer, and put it on the internet and they told us they had fifty thousand views....and I went back to the team and said 'we've got to come up with an idea, put it on the internet and get more than fifty thousand views'...so we got a couple of suits...shot it....and we put it on the internet and...a million views in a week!."

This is a fascinating insight into the career of a man that has spent over two decades chasing a dream to win one of offshore sailing's biggest accolades, he's gone against convention, pushed boundaries of design, and suffered some well publicised failures, but most interestingly in this chat with Robertson, Alex Thomson also suggests that when it comes to trying to win the Vendee Globe, he's not quite done yet.

This edition of the podcast is in two parts and is available to listen to via the podcast page of Shirley’s own website - www.shirleyrobertson.com/podcast or via most popular podcast outlets, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcast and aCast. The podcast is produced and written by Tim Butt - for further enquires, please contact .

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