British round the world sailor Alex Thomson returned to the UK yesterday to be awarded the Yachtsman of the Year trophy at the London Boat Show for his remarkable performance in last year’s Vendée Globe solo round the world race.
The 43-year-old Welshman from Hampshire, not only set the fastest times from the start at Les Sables d’Olonne, France to the Equator (9 days 7hrs 2mins) and the Cape of Good Hope (17 days 22hrs 58 mins) but a 24 hour solo monohull record of 537 nautical miles – an average of 22.4 knots.
Joining an elite group of yachtsman that includes Sir Francis Chichester, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Dame Ellen MacArthur and Sir Ben Ainslie, Thomson’s tenacity shone through on Day 13 of the race in overcoming a near-terminal setback when his Open 60 yacht Hugo Boss hit an unidentified object, snapping off the yacht’s starboard foil. The damage severely hampered his progress over the rest of the 27,000 mile course, but despite this and continued problems with his autopilot, Thomson still finished the race with the second fastest time on record – 74 days 19 h 35 min 15 sec – just 16 hours behind French winner Armel Le Cléac’h, setting a new British record for an East/west solo circumnavigation.
Voted on by members of the Yachting Journalists’ Association, Alex Thomson’s nomination beat two other great performances last year: World No 1 ranked 49er pair Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell won gold in a history-making feat at the class World Championships in Porto, Portugal, and Paul Goodison winner of the Moth World Championships for the second year in succession.
This was Thomson’s 4th attempt at winning the Vendée Globe and he said at the presentation that he had promised his wife that this would be his last. “The first two ended in retirement, and I finished 3rd in the 2012/13 race, and 24 hours before I returned completing this last one in 2nd, I rang my wife and said ‘The first question I will be asked is whether I will do the race again.” and she agreed that having finished 3rd and 2nd it would be criminal to not try one more to win the race. So we start building a new boat in late Spring. There are three elements needed to win a race like this: Time, money…and the right people around you. We are putting those building blocks together now for a final attempt to win.”
He said: “I was nominated for this award in 1999 but didn’t win and it’s a real honour and a great shock to now have my name on this historic trophy”
Alex had a few words of encouragement for 18-year-old Montel Fagan-Jordan, winner of the YJA’s Young Sailor of the Year award who appeared on BBC Breakfast Time TV yesterday to talk about his ambitions to follow in Thomson’s footsteps. The student from the Greig Academy in Tottenham, London won his award for his leadership in first raising the money to restore the 1980s classic American Admiral’s Cup yacht Scaramouche, then leading a crew of fellow students to compete in last year’s 605 miles Fastnet Race.
Nominated by his school teacher, Jon Holt says of Montel: “This was unique yachting project in which a multi-cultural crew spent three years undertaking more than 50 fund-raising talks to buy and restore the famous Gérman Frers designed yacht. Montel is able to helm almost any yacht. Not only was he the driving force behind Scaramouche — raising most of the money himself, but then developed as the helmsman, after receiving tuition from David Beford and Lawrie Smith. In 2017 he entered the Etchells 22 class Gertrude Cup and finished 4th overall before steering the Lloyds X55 class yacht during Cowes Week. He steered Scaramouche for most of the Fastnet Race
Given that Scaramouche is an old yacht, which rolls madly, his ability to hold a course for four hours in the dark, surfing downwind without broaching was amazing. Scaramouche may have finished 142 out of 368, but as a school team in an old yacht, they more than proved their point.”