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Article: Alex Thomson doing 6.5 knots - Wow 6.5 knots!

Alex Thomson doing 6.5 knots - Wow 6.5 knots!

Alex Thomson doing 6.5 knots - Wow 6.5 knots!

When I wake each morning I tune in to the web to find out how Alex Thomson is doing in the Vendee Globe Race. This morning I found that he had slipped to third place and was doing only 6.5 knots I assumed he had hit light airs and I knew he would be gutted. Then I thought, only 6.5 knots!

For my yacht to achieve 6.5 knots I need a force 4 or 5 slightly ahead of the beam and a flat sea. It is glorious sailing at hull speed. I would shout down to the resting crew and say, “Hey we are doing 6.5 knots” and they would roll over in their bunks saying “Wow 6.5 knots!”.

Alex Thomson’s yacht can sail at maybe 40 knots. The only time my boat has done that speed was on the back of John Shepard’s Low Loader. It is a totally different world. My yacht has a Taylors Paraffin Cooker with a cast iron top, whereas Alex Thomson cooks on a lightweight Jet Boil camping stove!

I’m not too sure about his toilet arrangements but I would doubt he has a Baby Blake with a porcelain bowl and bronze pumps – more likely a bucket.

I like my ropes to have a bit of forgiveness, I don’t want my lovely wooden boat to suffer shock loads. Sometimes I’ll choose a three-strand rope because it looks right and feels good in the hand. Hugo Boss will no doubt be using technical ropes with no stretch at all to ensure the tuning is millimetre accurate. I simply don’t care if I arrive a bit late!

I was wondering if there was anything Arthur Beale could supply to any of the Vendee Globe yachts that would be of any use. There were possibly a few things, we stock the Exposure Carbon MOB torch and their head torches which might be handy. We sell Dr Sails high tech adhesive for repairing laminated sails which could get him out of a hole, and we do sell technical ropes, but we are not geared up to supply these racing machines.

No, although I love following the Vendee Globe. I think it is the most amazing sporting event in the world but its not my kind of sailing. I did think of entering one year in my 26ft Vertue - not that I would be allowed. My idea would be to enter the 2024 race and finish in the 2028 race and just hope no one noticed that I had swapped races!

The thing is, what I find so nice about sailing across oceans single-handed is the isolation, its just you and the big sky. The Vendee Globe boats are hooked up to the satellites and in constant contact with their team and followers. We all appreciate their news, its makes the race great fun for us, but I bet they wish they could get some peace.

On my Atlantic crossing I had no power because my alternator caught on fire a few days out from Antigua so what little instrumentation I had was closed down. A paraffin light was hung in the rigging at night. My little Sony transistor radio would occasionally pick up weather routing from "Herb" aimed at other yachts, but otherwise it was glorious isolation. I loved it, being alone at sea for weeks on end with no one to phone you, no news, just you, the little wooden boat and that great big sky.

I now understand that Alex didn't hit light airs but has had a major technical problem and is trying to make repairs at sea.

Let's hope he gets it sorted out and is underway again soon.

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