HE’s one of the best known faces in sailing, thanks in part to a series of creative stunts and multi-million pound backing from luxury fashion house Hugo Boss.

But despite more than 10 years on the solo sailing circuit, Alex Thomson has never managed to conquer the Vendée Globe.

Two previous entries into the 30,000-mile solo round the world race have ended in disappointment and frustration, boat breakages forcing retirement twice.

With a reputation for pushing man and boat to the limit – and sometimes beyond – Thomson has long been regarded as the wild child of ocean racing, hellbent on victory and willing to go to any length to get it.

However, four years older and now with a wife and son to think of, priorities have changed somewhat for the 38-year-old from Gosport.

“For me the primary objective is to finish the race,” Thomson said. “I've put 10 years of my life, my family’s, my team’s and sponsors’ lives into this race and there is a real responsibility now for me to finish it. “Of course, if you finish you have a chance of winning. I’m not saying I’m to go out there today and hold anything back. “I'm still going out there to race, to compete, but the objective for a long time has been to finish.

“Before it was simply about winning, but now I need to go out and complete the race. “I need to do that for me.”

Thomson faces 19 of the world's top solo sailors in the race, starting from Les Sables d'Olonne in France today, including Hampshire's own Mike Golding and Sam Davies.

It's an impressive line-up, but one Thomson says he stands a good chance against thanks to top class preparation and thousands of hours of sailing practice.

Full story in today's Daily Echo