Vendee Globe - Alex Thomson reaches the finish line

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  • Alex Thomson has completed the Vendee Globe, the gruelling round-the-world yacht race in third place and with a new British record (80 days, 19 hours, 23 mins, 43 secs)

3:48pm

Alex Thomson: "I think the hardest part of the race was from the start to Cape Horn. For me the Southern Ocean is so tough but the first part is so hard because you have not raced for weeks. Everybody is ‘balls to the wall’. Everyone is 100% and you just do not sleep. Then you can't wait to get on the highway on the Southern Ocean, and you get on the highway and you remember how bloody dangerous it is down there, how isolated it is, how scared you are sometimes and that for me was the toughest part of the race...I like the special moments when the sun comes up and the stars are really bright, seeing flying fish, dolphins and whales. But the greatest moments are when you’re doing well – I was in this for the competition."
 

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9:23am

Southampton's Mike Golding has congratulated Alex Thomson on breaking the record he set eight years ago: "I would like to congratulate Alex on a fantastic race. Before the race began it was clear that Alex had a good connection with this boat and he has sailed the race he deserves. I have communicated with him once or twice and he was solid with his conviction to finish the race. He was determined to finish and it's great that he has a podium finish to boot." Golding is currently sixth, with keel problems appearing to have dashed his hopes of beating his 88-day 2004/05 record.

9:18am

Alex Thomson: "I’ve sailed out of the channel three times but only once back in. And let me tell you, the way back is absolutely great!!!
"A lot of this race is about preparation. It took me three months to complete this race but it took my team three years to make it possible so I want to thank them all very much.

"Leaving a little boy behind is very difficult, my son Oscar has grown every day while I was away and his speech has improved. My wife has kept me in touch with Oscar throughout the race. I feel a little guilty because I had fun at sea while she stayed home.

"To not have any power on board is hard. We had taken enough fuel for half of the race and we were relying on hydrogenerators for the rest. The first couple of days after the incident were so hard, but I had no choice. I’m glad I did what I did.

"I remember Denis Horeau asking me if a race time of 77 days was realistic. I told him it was ridiculous, but he was right. Our IMOCA 60 boats are fantastic. I would have loved to do it three days faster, but hopefully next time I will.
"My wife will not want to hear about the 2016 edition of the Vendée Globe, at least not right now. It was my third Vendée Globe, this race has been part of my life for 10 years now, it’s in my blood. Right now, I can’t imagine not doing the 2016 Vendée Globe.

"The most important thing for me in this Vendée Globe was to finish the race. Standing on the podium is amazing, though and really, the race time is irrelevant.
"People have said it was noble to stay close to JP when he had problems, but to me, it was just the normal thing to do, it shows the respect we all have for each other. I’ve been rescued by Mike Golding, I know what it feels like."

9:01am

Again refusing to rule out taking part in the 2016 Vendee Globe, Thomson added his motivation for competiting is that ocean sailing becomes an addiction.

He said: "It becomes part of your blood, like an institution. I've been extremely privileged to be able to do what I do."

And Alex played down the selflessness shown in sportingly changing his own course to the finish in the last few days to be closer to France's Jean-Pierre Dick, who lost his keel in the north Atlantic last week, 2,000 miles from the finish.

Dick was in danger of capsizing in heavy seas and was in third when disaster struck, and the setback allowed Thomson to claim his place.

Alex said: "It's just a normal thing to do and it shows the respect that the competitors have with each other."

8:56am

Alex has just addressed the cheering crowd at Les Sables d'Olonne, giving more reaction to his podium finish and revealing just what it means to him to finally complete the Vendee Globe.

He said: "For me, this third place is very important, but also for our team it's very important and I would like to say thank you very much to all of you for making it happen."

Alex went on to reveal the difficulties he had faced leaving his family - wife Kate and son Oscar, who turned two during the race - behind in Hampshire. He admitted he felt guilty at leaving her to raise their son while he was off "enjoying myself".

He said: "To leave a little boy behind is very difficult, and I know he grows every day while I'm away.

"I hear his speech improving and I'm extremely lucky to have a fantastic wife who has kept me in touch with Oscar all the way."

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Alex has paid tribute to this year's race winner, Francois Gabart.

He said: "I feel very proud to be part of the race.

"Francois has been incredible breaking the record. He's done a fabulous job and I feel honoured to be here in third place."

8:33am

Meanwhile Jean Pierre-Dick, whose broken keel gave Alex Thomson the opening to a podium finish, is 421 nautical miles from the finish line in fourth place. Southampton's Mike Golding is hoping to better his personal best, the 88-day finish that set the previous British record eight years ago, and is currently 1901.2nm from Les Sables d'Olonne. He needs to finish in the early hours of Thursday, February 7 to achieve that.

8:30am

Alex has revealed he is already considering doing the Vendee Globe again - but could face another tough challenge in convincing wife Kate to agree.

He said: "The next Vendee Globe has been discussed, and my wife is not too happy.

"For now we're relaxing as a family.

"My little boy has grown so much and I can't wait to spend time with him."

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Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who this year celebrates 45 years since becoming the first man to sail solo non-stop around the world, has added his congratulations. “Congratulations to Alex for joining the exclusive list of solo circumnavigators," he said. "The significance of his achievement is better understood when it is appreciated that three times as many people have been into space as have sailed solo around the world."

8:12am

Holding Oscar, who is waving an orange flag with "Alex" written on it, Alex has just revealed his delight at finally conquering the finish that had eluded him, and revealed he was nervous right up until the line.

Standing on his now-moored yacht he said: "I didn't feel comfortable until the finish.

"Even ten minutes before crossing the finish line, I wasn't comfortable.

"It feels amazing - I've been trying to do this for ten years, to finish the race.

"To finish and come third, I feel I've done a great job.

"It's just so great to be here."

8:08am

Alex cradles two-year-old son Oscar as he addresses the huge crowds in Les Sables d'Olonne

8:07am

Three cheers for Alex Thomson on the pontoon. Hip hip hooray!

8:06am

Alex welcomes son Oscar on to Hugo Boss - before spraying his  well-earned champagne all over the photographers!

8:06am

Alex's finishing time also comfortably smashes the previous race record held before this year's Vendee Globe.

Prior to Francois Gabart's victory, the old race record was 84 days, 3 hours and 9 minutes, set by Michel Desjoyeaux in 2009.

8:04am

The final time for Hugo Boss means Alex has beaten Mike Golding's previous British solo race record from 2005 by 7 days, 19 hours and 52 minutes.

8:03am

A red carpet has been laid out for Alex's arrival as a red flare continues to blaze. He will soon be back on dry land! 

8:02am

Alex covered 28,022 miles to complete the Vendee Globe at the average speed of 14.4 knots.

His total distance covered was significantly more than the race’s theoretical distance of 24,393.41 miles.

8:00am

Alex's official time for completing the round-the-world challenge is 80 days, 19 hours, 23 minutes and 43 seconds. He finished 2 days, 18 hours and 7 minutes behind winner François Gabart.

7:59am

Surrounded by photographers and RIB boats on board his Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson continues to enjoy the moment and rightly so. He is back in the harbour at Les Sables d'Olonne for the first time since his departure on November 10   

7:58am

As Hugo Boss makes its way up the long channel towards the marina at Les Sables d'Olonne, Alex has been joined on board by members of his support crew.

Amongst those congratulating him with a huge hug was Stuart Hosford, managing director of Alex Thomson Racing.

7:51am

Here's proof of what it means to Alex to finally complete the Vendee Globe at the third attempt. The sailor took this picture summing up his mood just moments before crossing the finishing line.

Picture: Alex Thomson / Hugo Boss / Vendée Globe

Daily Echo: Alex Thomson smiling at the end of the Vendee Globe.  Copyright: Alex Thomson / Hugo Boss / Vendée Globe

7:49am

A jubilant Alex has unfurled a Union flag and is holding it above his head for the photographers, as the huge grin still refuses to leave his face.

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Thomson is now set to become only the third Briton to claim a top three finish in the Vendee.

Dame Ellen, below, was second in 2001 and Hamsphire's Mike Golding - who is in sixth in this race - who finished third in 2004.Daily Echo: Dame Ellen MacArthur at Bradford University

 

7:44am

Scores of people on the quayside amidst emotional scenes, welcoming back Alex Thomson, who waves to the crowd, he and his wife wreathed in smiles.

7:42am

Away from the finish line, another Hampshire sailor is involved in a battle for fifth place in the gruelling race.

Mike Golding, from Southampton, has been struggling for the past 24 hours to resolve an issue with his keel as he attempts to beat Jean Le Cam to Les Sables d'Olonne.

The front fairing of the keel olive has been lost.

The Englishman spent five hours upside down in the keel box trying to fix the problem and allow him to get his Gamesa yacht to he finish line.

7:41am

Wonderful scenes in Les Sables d'Olonne as Alex Thomson embraces wife Kate while a red flare marks their arrival

7:40am

A podium finish in the 27,000-mile circumnavigation will earn Thomsoon 75,000 euro (£64,000).

7:37am

Congratulations to Alex Thomson, who has completed the Vendee Globe in Les Sables d O'lonne! 

7:32am

Alex Thomson set to complete the Vendee Globe for the first time having been forced to withdraw in 2004-05 (hole in deck) and 2008-09 (cracked hull). But not only that he will smash the British record by eight days, completing the fastest-ever Vendee Globe in 80 days.

7:31am

This is the latest picture of Alex Thomson on board Hugo Boss posted by his team Hugo Boss Racing, as he closes in on the finish line at Les Sables D'Olonne in France. 

Daily Echo: Alex Thomson near the finish line of the Vendee Globe. Copyright: Alex Thomson Racing.

7:31am

As Alex Thomson closes in on the finish here are a few facts about the record breaking sailor:

  • Born on April 18, 1974 in Bangor, North Wales.
  •  Lives in Gosport.
  • Has been sailing 20 years.
  • Married to wife Kate and has a son Oscar
  • At 25, became the youngest skipper to win a round-the-world race – the Clipper in 1998/99.
  • First Vendee Globe experience in 2004/05 ends due to structural damage.
  • Second attempt at the Vendee Globe in 2008/09 again when forced to retire after his boat was struck by a fishing vessel before the race had even started.
  •  In July 2012, smashes the single-handed monohull transatlantic record by more than 24 hours, crossing the finish line at Lizard Point, Falmouth. His new time was eight days 22hours and eight minutes.

Daily Echo: Alex Thomson. Photo: onEdition

 

7:25am

 

Daily Echo: Alex Thomson celebrates beating the record for sailing solo across the Atlantic. Photo: Christophe Launay

 

7:24am

Alex Thomson's HUGO BOSS is less than 2.5 miles away from the finish line and in visual contact with the Race Committee. He has one last gybe to go through in 20 knots of wind, a 2 to 4-metre swell and in the rising sun.

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