04 November 2020

It’s been over 20 years since British sailor Alex Thomson became the youngest Skipper to win the Clipper Race when, aged just 25, he led the Ariel team to victory in the 1998-9 edition. It is a title that Alex still holds today and has only been challenged by Skipper Nikki Henderson, who led her Visit Seattle team to second place in the 2017-18 edition, narrowly missing out on the accolade.

Alex Thomson during the Clipper 1996 Race

Reflecting on his time as a Clipper Race Skipper, Alex reflects: “To come out on top was phenomenal. It’s an amazing race and it absolutely changed my life. Looking back, I think I was quite fearless. Winning was one of the proudest moments of my life and it wasn’t until then that I realised this was something I could turn into a career. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the Clipper Race.”

Using his Clipper Race triumph as a career springboard, Alex has gone on to become one of the world’s most accomplished solo offshore sailors. Competing in the high-speed IMOCA 60 class, the British sailor has broken multiple records and achieved countless accolades throughout his decorated career.

Alex Thompson on board HUGO BOSS - Credit Christophe Launay

Alex holds the British solo, unassisted round-the-world monohull record. He set this in 2017 when he finished the gruelling Vendée Globe race – ‘the Everest of sailing’ – in just 74 days, 19 hours and 35 minutes. On the career highlight, Alex said: “Finishing second in the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe has to be at the top. The Vendée is so much more than just 70+ days at sea; it’s four years of planning and preparation for my team, who do so much behind the scenes. And so that was a proud moment for all of us when I crossed the finishing line.”

Still, the highly competitive sailor’s proudest moments span more than race results. Alex adds: “Being named YJA’s Yachtsman of the Year was something to be proud of, too, and most recently I was honoured to receive a French National Order of Merit. Being presented with the honour in front of my family, friends and team - who have supported me every step of the way - was very special.”

Sir Robin congratulates Alex on being awarded the prestigious French National Order of Merit (“Ordre national du Mérite”) for your services to the sport of sailing.

Understanding motivations for racing around the planet through some of the most remote places on Earth, enduring the most hostile conditions that Mother Nature can muster, can be difficult to fathom. But Alex explains: “It’s the challenge. More people have been into space and climbed Everest than those to have sailed around the world. To be part of that group is very special. It’s a challenge, and an adventure, of epic proportions. It’s a human exercise in self-management and mental strength. For me, it’s still the biggest sporting challenge in the world today.”

Having finished the 2012 and 2016 editions of the Vendée Globe in third and second place respectively, Thomson is targeting victory in 2020 onboard his brand new HUGO BOSS race yacht, which launched in the summer of 2019. On the upcoming campaign, he said: “For us there is only one goal and that is to win next time. We are prepared to give everything we have to make sure that, when we line up for the race start in November 2020, we are in the best possible position to do that.

“My life has been about one thing – winning the Vendée Globe. If were to do that, it would be a lifetime ambition realised.”

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