Alex Thomson has launched his campaign to compete in the 2004 Vendée Globe sailing Sill Entreprises

Alex Thomson has launched his campaign to compete in the 2004 Vendée Globe non-stop, singlehanded, round the world yacht race sailing one of the world’s fastest Open 60 monohulls, the Lombard design Sill Entreprises.

In order to manage the campaign, 29-year-old Thomson has established a new company, AT Racing Ltd, with marketing entrepreneur Keith Mills, who is the founder of both the Air Miles and Nectar marketing programmes. The new company will be responsible for managing the Open 60 yacht and providing all of the shore support and marketing facilities necessary for the project.

Thomson is no stranger to racing around the world: in 1999 he won the Clipper Round The World yacht race and became the youngest skipper to do so at the age of 25 years. Since then, he has successfully competed in many ocean races and established one of the UK’s leading yacht racing companies, Formula 1 Sailing Ltd.

His training and racing programme begins immediately. Thomson is pairing up with the 2002 FICO Lacoste World Champion & IMOCA (International Monohull Open Class Association) Champion, also the previous skipper of Sill Entreprises, French skipper Roland Jourdain, to compete together on the boat in the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre race in early November. After winning the 2001 edition, Jourdain will be defending his title with Thomson as co-skipper this time.

Next on the agenda for Thomson is the Vendée Globe solo qualifier race, a new event for the Open 60 class, which starts from Salvador, Brazil, on 30 November 2003 and finishes in La Rochelle, France, just before Christmas. The boat will then be based in Gosport, England, and the 2004 schedule will include the single-handed Europe 1 STAR event, plus several record attempts, in the build up to the fifth edition of the Vendée Globe itself on 7 November from Les Sables d’Olonne, France.

Speaking from his base in Gosport, Alex said: “It’s always been my ambition to compete in the Vendée Globe, it really is the ultimate challenge for a yachtsman. I’m really pleased that we’ve been able to buy such a competitive boat as Sill and I’m very fortunate that I have the golden opportunity to race with the previous skipper on board – Roland is the best teacher for me as well as the most successful skipper on the circuit, and so I am going to get invaluable experience before I go solo.”

Meanwhile Thomson is working towards finalising plans for sponsorship before the end of the year.

Roland Jourdain himself will be announcing the build of a new Open 60 for the 2004 Vendée Globe and is happy to be passing the helm of his current boat over to Thomson: “I believe Alex has great potential as a solo skipper. Sill is a winning boat, she is definitely competitive for another three years and so Alex has the best chance to perform well even against the newer boats. I look forward to racing with him this winter and wish him fair winds for the Vendée Globe on such a special boat!”