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Shattered dreams

by Mark Jardine 30 Nov 2020 09:00 PST
Alex Thomson ceases racing in the Vendée Globe © Alex Thomson Racing

It's impossible not to feel sorry for Alex Thomson having to pull out of the Vendée Globe. He cut a dejected figure in the cockpit of his Hugo Boss IMOCA as he made his way towards Cape Town following the damage to his starboard rudder.

Having spent a couple of days repairing the structural damage in the bow in stiflingly hot conditions, maintaining a positive outlook the whole time, the rudder damage proved impossible to fix, leaving him no option but to retire from the race.

Alex has spent the best part of 20 years chasing victory in the Vendée Globe, suffering damage to the boom clew in the 2004/05 race and a cracked hull in the 2008/09 race, forcing him to retire in both. Then in 2012/13 he finished third, followed by a second place in the 2016/17 edition, despite breaking his starboard foil after just 13 days at sea. Surely 2020/21 was the year he was going to go one better and become the first non-French sailor to win the event? Sadly, it wasn't meant to be this time, but hopefully he'll be back to give it another shot in 2024/25.

Today a clearly distraught Alex recorded this video in which he said, "I'm normally a very positive person, but if I'm honest right now I feel pretty broken... We've come so close before and this time I really thought it was possible. I have the boat of my dreams and we've put together a campaign which I'm extremely proud of and despite the setbacks of the last week I still thought it was possible... I've given my life to this sport and it's a very difficult pill to swallow."

Alex's story and positivity has led to him building a fan base around the world. David Schmidt, Sail-World.com's North American Editor, messaged me soon after the news came through and was similarly gutted that Alex had to pull out of the Vendée.

The race itself has clearly captured the sailing world's attention. November has been a record month for Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com with half a million unique visitors to the websites, which is astounding at a time so many events are off, and areas of the world are in lockdown. We so appreciate that you've chosen our websites to digest your sailing news, and we're grateful for the incredible amount of feedback and contribution we get from you all. Our team is hugely passionate about what we do, so hearing about that same passion you all have for our sport is what keeps us motivated. Thank you.

Retirements are an inevitable part of the Vendée Globe, and hitting UFOs (unidentified floating objects) is sadly a hazard of sailing fast through our oceans, and the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, which had started a Jules Verne Trophy record attempt, turned back to Lorient on Friday after damage to the huge foiling trimaran.

The other leviathan, Sodebo Ultim 3, sailed by Thomas Coville, François Duguet, Sam Goodchild, Corentin Horeau, Martin Keruzoré, François Morvan, Thomas Rouxel and Matthieu Vandame, holds a slim lead of just 6.8 nautical miles at the equator over Francis Joyon's reference time from 2017 in IDEC Sport. You can track the team here.

Time is counting down rapidly until we see the America's Cup teams go head-to-head in the Prada America's Cup World Series Auckland and Prada Christmas Race, taking place 17-20 December.

While all four teams have been practising in the same vicinity, they are forbidden by the rules to engage in head-to-head sailing, so this really is the first opportunity to see who looks fast and who has a lot of work to do ahead of The Prada Cup Challenger Series, taking place 15th January to the 22nd February, and then the America's Cup itself from 6th to the 21st March.

We understand that there should be practice racing ahead of the Prada America's Cup World Series, which is likely to take place from December 8th, and Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com's New Zealand Editor, will be out on the water to catch the action.

In many ways sailing is very lucky to have these events taking place, so we need to spread the word amongst our non-sailing friends to show the world just how far sailing has come.

Back in September I tried to gybe a WASZP inside a day of sailing it, recording a video of the experience. It was great fun, and led me to want to do more in the boat, which is something a lucky sailor will be able to do if they win the WASZP #1000 competition. Photos and a video of the boat itself were released last week and it really does look stunning! This is definitely a competition worth entering!

There have been a few other events and series taking place around the world. Two which really caught my eye this week were the RS:X Europeans, which included some seriously strong gusts on day 2, and the teams who made it onto the water for race 2 of the 18ft Skiff NSW Championship on Sydney Harbour. The race was called off after only three teams managed to make it to the start line in Rose Bay, but it was incredible to see veteran skipper John Winning tackle the 40+ knot gusts in such a powerful boat.

Through the rest of 2020, during the festive period, into 2021 and beyond our team on Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com will continue to bring you the latest from all the events taking place around the world in the sport that we love. Thank you for reading our websites and please continue to give us your feedback and share the sailing news with your network of friends!

Mark Jardine
Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com Managing Editor

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