Alex Thomson: Welsh sailor faces most gruelling test in world yachting

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Welsh sailor Alex Thomson takes on the Vendee Globe

Welsh sailor Alex Thomson is set to embark on perhaps the most gruelling challenge yachting has to offer.

The 42-year-old from Bangor will compete in the Vendee Globe which sees competitors sail alone 30,000-miles, non-stop and unaided around the world.

Held just once every four years since 1989, the race has down the years claimed three lives and seen only 71 of the 138 vessels actually finish.

"For me it's the challenge, it's the competition," Thomson said.

"It's an amazing journey, but thing for me is I get to build a €5m custom-designed carbon racing yacht just for me. If you are into boats, that's the best thing in the world.

"I started when I was 11, windsurfing in north Wales, and then dinghy sailing and finally onto yachts. I thought I would get civilised, but unfortunately my racing yacht does not even have a toilet so it's not particularly civilised any more."

Despite the lack of amenities, if he can finish, Thomson will spend nearly three months alone at sea with competitors disqualified if at any point they dock anywhere.

Alex Thomson
Costing €5m to design and build, Thomson will travel 30,000 miles and spend three months alone on his yacht, the Hugo Boss

Thomson is looking to become the first non-Frenchman to win the race, which begins on Sunday, 6 November in France, and has high hopes this time around after finishing third four years ago.

And he puts the size of the task of sailing alone, unaided, non-stop around the world into stark perspective.

"The first man to do it was Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in 1969, it took him nearly a year and when he got back they all thought he was completely mad," Thomson told BBC Radio 2.

"Since then only 100 people have ever done it, there's probably been more than 500 people in space since and 3,000 people up Mount Everest so that gives you an idea of how hard it is."

For many the idea of spending three months alone on a 60ft "carbon coffin", as Thomson describes his vessel the Hugo Boss, would be enough to drive them slightly mad.

And Thomson himself admits that despite his desire to win, he will be missing home comforts, even if modern technology does help.

"I've got a five-year-old boy and a two-year-old daughter and a fantastic wife so I much prefer being at home nowadays," he added.

"I get to speak to my wife every day and she sends me some voice notes from the kids so I get my family fix. It's just 24 hours a day hard labour to be honest. I love it, if I'm doing really well I love it, if I'm not, it's hell on earth."

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