A new west to east Atlantic crossing record in a Mini 6.50 has been set by Jay Thompson, subject to ratification by the World Sailing Speed Record Council

Subject to ratification by the World Sailing Speed Record Council, Jay Thompson has set a new west to east Atlantic crossing record in a Mini 6.50.

The 38-year-old American solo skipper took 17 days, 9 hours, 57 minutes and 43 seconds to sail Speedy Gonzales from Ambrose Light, New York to Lizard Point off Cornwall.

Whilst thousands of Mini 6.50s and their skippers have sailed east to west across the Atlantic during the biennial Mini Transat Race, no sailor has ever successfully set a west to east Atlantic crossing record in the 6.5m/21.3ft boat.

A man in a red dry suit sailing a boat

This was Jay Thompson’s second attempt at the record. Credit: Thornton Cohen

Speaking to Practical Boat Owner magazine after crossing the finish line, Thompson said he was proud of his accomplishment, after having to abandon an attempt in August 2022.

“It’s been a long road but it feels really good. I’m also happy with the time. At the beginning, I was hoping to complete the crossing in 16 to 20 days and I knew that 16  days would be really exceptional, so I am very happy with 17 days.”

Thompson’s west to east Atlantic crossing record was not without problems.

The boat was relentlessly pounded by a low pressure near the start; Thompson had to make repairs to his rudder and solder the wires of his wind instrument, after discovering corrosion.

A man on a small boat sailing by the Statue of Liberty in New York ahead of starting his west to east Atlantic crossing record

Jay Thompson spent days preparing in New York ahead of crossing the start line at Ambrose Light. Credit: Natasha Gonzalez

“The rudder developed some play. It’s a pretty good system, but the first depression that I went through really took its toll on the rudder. I had 40 knots of wind, and we were slamming into the waves which would really shunt the boat sideways; this put a lot of load on the rudder.

“I just had one moment when I was able to detach the top bearing of the rudder and then I was able to put some glue in it and put it back, holding it in place with some washers and a bowl. Once the glue dried, it was fixed. I knew there would be strong winds at the end of the crossing, so I had to deal with that to make sure that I was able to arrive with a good rudder system,” he explained.

Thompson found the “stress” of the crossing the hardest part of the record attempt.

“I haven’t really experienced that on any other passage or race, because you really feel that you’re very alone and you do feel that the boat is small and also fragile. You’re always on edge and there is fear in the back of your mind that something will break. You’re always tense and have to keep telling yourself to relax.”

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But, there were memorable moments too, such as words of encouragement from workers on an oil rig.

“They were giving me encouragement and it was a really nice moment because it was the first time I had talked to people in like a week or so.”

He is currently sailing to Brest in France, where he plans to eat a burger, fries and drink wine on arrival, having lived on freeze-dried and canned food since the start of the record attempt.

Thompson built the Guillaume Verdier-designed foiling Speedy Gonzales himself in a hanger in France and worked with Verdier on a new T-rudder system, which allows the rudder to flip up if it hits something in the water.

A sailor wearing a blue dry suit on a boat

Jay Thompson has spent the last six years living in France with his family, having sailed around the world for a decade living aboard their Germán Frers one-tonne 12m prototype, Messenger. Credit: Pierre Bouras/Coconut Sail Team

He raced the boat in the 2021 Mini Transat, finishing 9th overall out of 90 competitors, with a time of 27d 03h 03m 49s. He has also raced in  420s and Lasers and the Marstrom 32 circuit, TP52s and F16 World Championship.

Thompson hopes his small boat Atlantic crossing record will lead to sponsorship and his ultimate goal – a place in the Vendée Globe.

“Id love to be able to do the Vendée Globe and The Ocean Race, that would be the ideal situation. Other than that, I would also like to do a Class 40, but I would really like to focus on the IMOCA 60s. I love that class and the boat is fantastic.”

Thompson, who works for Sam Davies’s Initiatives-Cœur team as a préparateur, will be helping to prepare her IMOCA 60 for the Défi Azimut in September, ahead of October’s Transat Jacques Vabre and the 2024 Vendée Globe, which starts on 10 November 2024 from Les Sables d’Olonne.

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