Why Alex Thomson may be the biggest winner in this round the world race


Victory for the Franco-Irish team of Jean-Pierre Dick (right, in photo) and Damian Foxall, who sailed Paprec-Virbac across the finish line of the Barcelona World Race last night after 92 days.

Alex Thomson and Andrew Cape on Hugo Boss are due in tomorrow to take 2nd place and complete Alex’s first successful round the world race since the 1998 Clipper Race.

The Barcelona World Race has gone OK for a first event, though it’s been no show-stopper. Predictably, a small field of largely new boats was thinned by gear failure and enforced stops, and it turned into one-horse race when PRB, Veolia and Delta Dore were dismasted and Hugo Boss had to stop in New Zealand for rudder repairs.

That, and a website race viewer and ‘console’ that turned a lot of people off, to judge from comments on our forums, made it hard to sustain interest. Nor did we ever get (or were we ever likely to) the fall-outs, bust-ups and clashes that had been hyped up to create one of this race’s main USPs.

Still, the Open 60s are an incredibly strong class and Barcelona is committed to two more editions of the race, so there’s no reason why the event should not be bigger and better when it begins again in 2011.

In the meantime, what a jump it has given JP Dick and Alex Thomson in the lead-up to this year’s Vendée Globe. Alex, in particular, is the biggest beneficiary. He will have learned a huge amount about his boat, ironed out most reliability problems and, equally importantly, comes away with a massive boost in confidence from completing the race.

From the point of view of sponsorship fulfillment, too, his team will be heaving a sigh of relief. This has punctured the apparent jinx of being unable to make it beyond 40°S and the widespread impression that Alex can’t help letting his boy racer appetites take priority over seamanship.

That said, it’s worth noting that this has not been a particularly quick race. The Vendée Globe record is 87 days, a full five days faster, and that’s a longer course. We have yet to see this new generation of boats – and sailors – pushing each other to the limit.

Photo courtesy of Thierry Martinez