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Page 3 Profile: Alex Thomson, Britain's new sailing hero

A sailor to rival Dame Ellen MacArthur?

Yachtsman Alex Thomson has claimed third place in the most arduous challenge in sailing: the Vendée Globe. The 38-year-old, from Gosport in Hampshire, managed the 27,000-mile circumnavigation of the globe in his monohull boat in just 80 days, wiping eight days off the British record. His prize was £64,000. Thomson is only the third Briton to claim a podium finish (MacArthur finished second in 2001 and Mike Golding came third in 2004), which is even more impressive given the Vendée's gruelling nature: sailors have to sleep in 20-minute snatches.

He must be delighted.

"The last two days have been hectic. I never felt comfortable until I crossed the line because I have been trying to finish this race for 10 years," he said, adding that the crowds waiting for him in Les Sables d'Olonne in France made it all worthwhile. Thomson has become popular in France after showing sportsmanlike conduct during the perilous race. He changed his course to look after Frenchman Jean-Pierre Dick, who lost his keel in the North Atlantic. "He would have done it for me," Thomson said. France still had a lot to cheer: François Gabart won in a record time of 78 days and two hours. Armel Le Cleac'h was second.

How did Thomson celebrate?

There was a happy reunion with his wife Kate and two-year-old son Oscar, and after months of freeze-dried food he couldn't wait to tuck in to something more succulent. "I would murder for a cheeseburger," he said. He was given one, but not the one he wanted, saying he would have preferred a Big Mac.

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