HE’S set to follow in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg – by going around the world in 80 days.
Hampshire solo sailor Alex Thomson is on course to achieve a lifetime’s ambition by finishing the Vendee Globe yacht race within the next 24 hours.
He set off on November 10 and if he crosses the finishing line off the French port of Les Sables D’Olonne by 1.02pm local time tomorrow, he will set a new British record for a single-handed circumnavigation in a monohull yacht.
After 80 days at sea, waiting for him at the finishing line will be his wife Kate and son Oscar, who has turned two during the race, plus many other close family and friends.
Kate, who married Alex in 2010, said: “I just can’t wait to see his face and he will be looking forward to seeing how his little boy has changed.
“It is just about waiting now. These last few hours are really dragging and I expect it will be even more for him.
“He can probably already smell his first cup of tea and feel that shower.”
As the Daily Echo went to press, Alex, 38, from Gosport was sailing his 60ft yacht Hugo Boss in the Bay of Biscay and set to finish in third place.
Kate said: “The end is in sight. In a day or so he will get a big welcome and all the glory – but the weather he is facing is expected to be the worst in the whole race.”
Alex could not speak over the phone to the Daily Echo last night because he was he battling strong winds and huge waves.
However, earlier in the day he said: “I just want to finish the race as safely as possible.
“My foot is off the pedal. I am taking it easy. I don’t really care when I finish as long as I finish.”
Alex’s two previous entries into the 24,000-mile solo round-the-world race have both ended in disappointment and frustration with boat breakages forcing him to pull out on both occasions.
But his brother, David, 37, also from Gosport, said Alex’s iron determination has seen him through what is regarded as the ultimate sailing competition – and he expects his sibling’s success will only spur him on further.
He said: “It’s confirmed to him he has the talent and the speed. And knowing Alex he will not be specifying what he is doing next, but I know he will want to come back and win the race next time.
“He knows he can do it.”
As reported by the Daily Echo, Frenchman Francois Gabart won the race on Sunday, beating fellow countryman Armel le Cleac’h by the smallest margin in the race’s history.
But Alex’s twin sister Sarah, who lives in Nice, in France, said her brother’s third place position comes despite him sailing a less advanced boat than the other winners.
She said: “If he had a new boat he could be up there next to Francois Gabart for sure.
He could win it.”
Alex’s battle to third place has come after series of setbacks, including a daring mid sea repair to his yacht’s rudder after it hit a floating object in the Southern Ocean.
But it was the misfortune of French rival Jean Pierre Dick who suffered a broken keel that helped Alex pull into third place, although Alex proved he was a good sport, coming to Jean Pierre’s rescue amid stormy conditions.
Last night Warsash’s Mike Golding was in sixth place about 2,279 nautical miles from the finishing line and 1,680 miles behind Alex.
A third Hampshire sailor took part in the race but Sam Davies from Hamble was forced to retire with a broken mast in the first week.