How to sum up Alex Thomson in a few words? Talented, fiercely competitive and fun. This is one strong competitor who loves to go fast, and knows how to enjoy life. This has led to a few stunts, which his sponsors love, as well as a few boat breakages (a combination of bad luck and perhaps pushing the limits), which his backers can't be quite so keen on.
One thing's for sure though, whichever way you look at it, Alex Thomson is a personality. One absolutely worthy of being an ambassador for the iconic Hugo Boss brand.
And what an ambassador. From wakeboarding off the back of his boat, to his now infamous "Keelwalk" in a smart Hugo Boss suit. Alex's stunts have wowed the world and gone viral, but they also match his personality. Don't get me wrong, he is a totally serious sailor... when it's called for. But he also knows how to laugh at himself, and the stunts are an illustration of the colourful nature of his personality.
Alex Thomson does go into the forthcoming Vendee Globe Race a little older and wiser... he's 'downpowered' his boat a little. As he explained to me earlier in the year at the launch of his newly-painted 'silver' Farr-designed Hugo Boss, his previous boat, the 2010-built Juan Kouyoumdjian design, was faster, but he couldn't sail it singlehanded to its full potential. Whereas with this design, he is confident he can actually get higher speeds as it's more suited to solo sailing. The boat, a 2007-built design, which he purchased in 2011, has already been round the world. It has been extensively re-fitted and tuned, and his team's new partnership with Caterham Composites will have helped with the optimisation of the hull.
There has never been any doubt that Alex is a fast sailor, but sometimes singlehanded racing is also about holding back a little. A few more years' experience, plus the arrival of his first son, have perhaps helped to temper Alex's desire to win enough to help make it a reality. Alex is very mindful of one of the Vendee's biggest racing challenges; finishing. The attrition rate for the next race is expected to be high. For Thomson, a victim of all too many breakages over the year, this is an important issue. In the 2008/9 race, he not only lost his own mast, but then was rescued by fellow competitor Mike Golding, only for Golding's boat to also lose its mast! This time, more than anything, he's determined to finish. But he hasn't lost his love of speed, and he has every potential to challenge for the title.
The non-stop solo Vendee Globe round the world race is due to start in les Sables d’Olonne on November 10, 2012. Thomson is one of three British skippers competing together with Mike Golding and Sam Davies. All three are vastly experienced and will be looking to become the first British skipper to win a race which has been traditionally dominated by the French.
See Alex's Mastwalk challenge here.