The Barcelona World Race will be 'the toughest offshore race ever', predicts Alex Thomson


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“To my mind, this will be the toughest offshore race that’s ever happened.” So says Alex Thomson of the Barcelona World Race, which starts next month.

The nine teams entered are all starting to feel under pressure. The new 25,000-mile two-handed non-stop race through the Southern Ocean is being competed for by some of the fastest new Open 60s, four of them launched earlier this year and still sorting out last-minute teething troubles.

This will be the first time these boats have been raced round the world by two people and the skippers’ view is that the race will be harder-driving and may even be more stressful than sailing alone.

“It will be harder than the Vendée Globe,” says Britain’s Alex Thomson, who will be sailing his new Hugo Boss with fellow Brit Andrew Cape. “We’ll be sailing nearer 100 per cent the whole time. You’ll always be changing sails, always grinding. There will be no let-up whatsoever.

“It will be hard labour – like going to prison, basically. Not quite solitary confinement, but very, very tough.”

Thomson expects there to be a significant breakage rate. “They are all pretty new boats and nobody’s used to pushing their boats for that long, so no-one really knows what’s going to happen. It wouldn’t surprise me if everybody has a half serious problem.”

US sailor Jonathan McKee, sailing with Spanish sailor Guillermo Altadill agrees: “Breakages will for sure be a factor. Almost everyone will probably break something,” he says. “It’s just a question of how fatal it is, how well you handle it and how well you’re set up to deal with it.”

Nevertheless the teams are anticipating the time round the world to be whittled down to 80 days or below. Alex Thomson can also envisage the open 60 speed record being broken and exceeding well over 500 miles in 24 hours. “I’ll bet money on it. Certainly our boat is quick enough to break the 24-hour record – and it’s capable of doing it less than 25 knots of wind probably.

“In the old boat I’d have been looking for 25 knots or touching 40. The difference is these boats don’t need very much wind to make them go fast. We’re not looking for more than 30 knots.”

Read our preview of the Barcelona World Race in the November issue of Yachting World, out later this week.