Alex Thomson sounded less upset yesterday than after the fishing boat collision. Is this why?
There is no other ocean race that has any thing like the personal cost of a Vendée Globe. The difficulty of getting to the startline is huge, the odds of success once there are long – and you get a chance at it only four years.
For Mike Golding, the quest to win this race has been a 12-year slog. The same for poor Bernard Stamm who, following a collision this week is on his third star-crossed attempt to complete (never mind win) the race.
And now Alex Thomson is fast shaping up as a serial quester. Your heart goes out to him: this is his second attempt at the Vendée Globe and his second failure. Put together with abandoning his boat in the Velux 5 Oceans last year, he has had a rough old time of it.
By the time he gets another chance at this race, he will have devoted eight years of his career to the goal.
Yet when I talked to Alex yesterday I was surprised to find him, if not cheery, then at least determined and composed. He had been understandably emotional and upset when I spoke to him following the collision with the fishing boat three weeks ago, and I assumed this would have been the more crushing blow.
But thinking about it, then he was in solo sailor mode, hungry for a win and hastily reassembling ambitious goals along with his boat. This time he has had to snap himself out of dejection. Back on land and with no race to sail, he has to resume the role of project boss, business manager and team leader.
He must show the way for a team equally bereft after four years of work. He can’t wallow; he’s the gaffer. It’s time to regroup, keep the business running and his sponsor’s eyes on the future.
There is a lot of clearing up to do as well: the insurance claim against the fishing boat he says will go to court to resolve; the uninsured damage now; the boat to ship back and repair. The worst thing now would be if, through demoralisation, Thomson’s team were to lose their faith and commitment. So, grieving for this race has to be put the back burner.
It’s the same for any solo skipper thwarted through incident or accident. Their ambition is an all-consuming mini-business and the work must go on.