Thompson fired with new hope

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The Independent Online

Heading west on a voyage of hope and discovery, Brian Thompson, one of Britain's senior offshore sailors, hopes to put six months of frustration behind him on Sunday as he leaves Portsmouth Harbour.

Click here to listen to Stuart Alexander talk to Brian Thompson

The deck under his feet is that of the Open 60, Pindar. His first destination, accompanied by two of his support crew, is Falmouth, to make sure that all the work done during these last six months is sound and shaking down properly.

He then heads, alone, into the Atlantic for a 4,500-mile course which will satisfy his and the boat's eligibility for his consuming objective, the Vendée Globe solo non-stop round the world race which starts from Les Sables d'Olonne on 9 November.

He has one of the most powerful Open 60s around, designed by Juan Kouyoumdjian, who is also responsible for designing Britain's Origin challenge for the America's Cup and producing a new look at the Star class keelboat for Britain's Olympic pair in China this year, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson.

Twice the mast has failed on the boat, most recently when Thompson, with co-skipper Will Oxley, was on his way to Le Havre for the Transat Jacques Vabre.

Now he has a new, beefed up mast, a full metre and a half higher than any other in the Open 60 fleet, has fitted protective sides to the cockpit, has bought some new sails and is confident he can grab a top theee place in the Vendee, the race which shot a second-placed Ellen MacArthur to fame.

"I am definitely looking forward, definitely not looking back," says Thompson. "What I can't wait to do is go out there and test the power and speed of this boat. If the numbers being predicted by Juan K are correct, then we should have a lot of race potential.

"You need to spend continuous time at sea to find out how everything ticks. We will have been out for five short stints, but you need to develop an understanding and a sixth sense for how the boat performs best and that means long stints."

Thompson expects to be away from wife Nathalie and children Genevieve and Tristan for about 20 days. But the big test will be the target of 95 days in what is the gold standard of solo ocean racing. Against him will not only be the cream of the French fleet but British rivals like Mike Golding and Alex Thomson.