HE could end today as the history man. Barring a last gasp disaster, Hampshire solo sailor Alex Thomson was last night on course to achieve a lifetime ambition, by finishing the Vendee Globe yacht race.
And in doing so, he was set to become the fastest Briton ever to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe in a monohull yacht. Alex, 38, could yet complete the race within 80 days if he reaches the finishing line off the French port of Les Sables D’Olonne by 12.02pm GMT.
Anytime after that he would clock up his 81st day at sea. As the Daily Echo went to press, Alex was facing a race against time to beat that particular milestone in his 60ft yacht Hugo Boss, with an estimated arrival time of 2pm GMT.
But the Gosport sailor remained well on course to smash the British record, which currently stands at 88 days, 15 hours and 15 minutes 13 seconds – set by Warsash’s Mike Golding in the 2004/05 race.
Alex’s new British record would be for sailors in a monohull boat, which is slower than a multihull vessel. Cowes-based Ellen McArthur broke the world record for the fastest round-the-world voyage in February 2005 when she completed her journey in 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds.
Alex was sitting pretty in third place last night, 270 nautical miles from the finishing line, as he seeks to make it third time lucky in the prestigious race. His two previous entries into the 24,000-mile marathon have both ended in disappointment with boat breakages forcing him to pull out on both occasions.
As previously reported by the Daily Echo, French skippers Francois Gabart and Armel Le Cleac’h have already crossed the finish line in their home country, after completing the race on Sunday. And Alex was in pole position to take the final place on the podium, leading another Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Dick, by almost 350 nautical miles last night in the hunt for bronze.
Mike Golding was in sixth place as the remaining ten sailors set their sights on the finishing line, some 2,100 nautical miles away from completing his circumnavigation.
He is set to arrive in France by February 8. A third Hampshire sailor, Sam Davies from Hamble, was forced to retire with a broken mast in the first week of the gruelling race.