Six months after his historic second-place finish in the Vendee Globe, British sailor Alex Thomson will return to offshore racing on Sunday 6 August, competing in his 10th Fastnet Race.
The race, which starts in Cowes, is the world’s largest offshore sailing race with 400 boats and more than 4,000 crew expected at this year’s start line.
Racing onboard his record-breaking Hugo Boss IMOCA 60, Thomson will be joined onboard by Irish sailor Nicholas O’Leary, for the 600-mile race around the Fastnet Rock, in Ireland.
As a young talent in short-handed ocean racing, O’Leary has ambitions to race in the Vendee Globe himself in the future and is looking forward to gaining experience racing with Thomson onboard Hugo Boss.
Earlier this week, Thomson, who broke his own record as the fastest Brit to sail solo around the world on a monohull in the 2016/17 Vendee Globe, and holds the world sailing speed 24 hour distance record, was awarded with the Chichester Trophy at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes.
The prestigious award was presented by The Princess Royal in recognition of Thomson’s offshore sailing achievements, and has only previously been presented 16 times. The first sailor to be awarded the trophy was Sir Francis Chichester in 1967 and since then it has been awarded to other sailing legends including Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Dame Ellen MacArthur.
Speaking about the upcoming race, Thomson said: ‘I’m excited to be back racing this weekend in the Fastnet and it’s great to see a good turnout of IMOCA boats on the start line, with some new competitors on the circuit. It’s fantastic for the sport to see so many boats on the water.’
The notoriously testing race takes the boats from the Solent out through the English Channel, around the Fastnet Rock and finishes just off Plymouth.
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Technical director Ross Daniel said: ‘With the current upwind forecast, the conditions from the start to the Fastnet Rock are not favourable for the foiling IMOCA’s. The challenge will be staying in contention with the non-foiling IMOCA’s to the Rock, and then the foiling boats will come into their own in the reaching conditions to the finish in Plymouth.’
Five of the nine IMOCAs taking part in this year’s Fastnet are foiling boats, meaning they have appendages on either side of their hulls, designed to help lift the boats out of the water to reduce drag and increase speed. Foils were first introduced to the IMOCA class in the build-up to the Vendee Globe 2016, leading to significantly increased top speeds for those boats which had utilised them.