His Open 60 yacht beat a windsurfer, hydrofoil moth and kitesurfer

In an unexpected twist, solo round-the-world yachtsman Alex Thomson won a star-studded charity showdown on the Solent.

The first ever ‘Volvo Sailing Speed Challenge’ saw Alex competing against Olympic windsurfer Nick Dempsey, Olympic dinghy sailor Paul Goodison – racing a hydrofoil moth, and extreme kitesurfer Sam Lutman-Pauc.

It took place yesterday evening during the Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week and attracted big crowds on Cowes Green, Isle of Wight.

Alex – the sailor least expected to win ahead of the race – fought off strong competition from his Olympian rivals to claim the speed title and £1,000 for ‘Sported’ – the UK’s leading sporting legacy charity of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Kitesurfer Sam, more comfortable in extreme wind conditions and long distance speed challenges, struggled with the short racecourse and ripping tide.

Alex, who in January became the third ever British sailor to achieve a Vendee Globe podium finish, said: ‘That was great fun!

‘Paul Goodison is officially a lunatic on the racecourse, was not giving even an inch of any boat.

‘I didn’t expect to win but really I owe it to the two guys onboard with me, grinding away, so they can take all the glory not me.

‘But, it was great to win the £1,000 prize money for Sported, looking forward to handing it over to them.’

Worth the wait

The race was delayed due to light wind, but the four competitors finally got going at around 18.00.

The conditions on the Solent were challenging, the wind varied from 10 to 15 knots, with two to three knots of current and a strong tide in the same direction as the wind.

Second-placed Nick Dempsey, the London 2012 silver and Beijing 2008 bronze medallist, enjoyed the battle.

He said: ‘All day there’s been no wind and we really didn’t know if we would actually be able to do [the race], so after all the preparation and excitement, when the wind came in it was amazing.

‘It was close, Goody [Paul Goodison] and I had a brilliant first reach, we were neck and neck, but when we gybed and headed up for the second lap, the wind had shifted a bit and we couldn’t get back up to the next mark in one tack, so we had to double-tack.

‘Everything I Iost there meant that Alex was just getting further and further ahead, but it was still so close!

‘There was a lot of current out there today, it wasn’t easy. It was a really good race, very exciting – amazing to race next to Alex in Hugo Boss.’

Olympic gold medallist Paul, best known for his skill in the single-handed Laser dinghy, reached 18 knots once up foiling.

He said: ‘It was a great race, really good fun to be out there with all the other guys burning around at different speeds.

‘I thought I won the start, had a nice lead going down the first leg. Nick was a little bit faster and started reeling me in, and then just before the gybe mark I got quite a lot of weed on the foils.

‘Had a bit of a nightmare gybe and then really struggled to get on the foils coming back. I had to stop, capsize the boat on it’s side and clear the weed off, which is never fast.

‘Watching Nick sail away from me was pretty disappointed. Alex obviously did well but I want a rematch in the flat water so we can have some real action!

‘Classic race though, and all for charity as well.’

A post race video of the Team Volvo guys in action will be available ASAP here

Pictures credit: Mark Lloyd photography