We can't help but be inspired by Alex Thomson's feet of determination, resilience and perseverance in sailing around the world! He still has roughly 24hrs left to sail as I write this blog post but all being well, Alex will cross the finish line after sailing for 74 days solo, nonstop and unassisted. He has completed this in a boat that was damaged quite early on in the race; his starboard foil (a kind of wing which helps lift the 60ft boat out of the water to give it more speed) was smashed apart when he hit a submerged object in the South Atlantic. This started a battle to keep up with the current race leader Armel Le Cléac'h on Banque Populaire VIII.
I can't help but think about the parallels between the feelings that Alex will have had prior to, during and now nearing the finish line and how the 8 young people will be feeling when they start the adventure and challenge of their lives whilst sailing #ASPIRE360. Although the two events are massively different they are remarkably similar. The final 8 young people will be undertaking a voyage, that for them is as massive as sailing around the world.
ASPIRE360 will depart Plymouth’s Sutton Harbour and sail in a Westabout direction around the UK. The route will visit 16 ports in the UK and Ireland with events and educational visits planned in each port. Like Alex the young people will swap the comforts of home for single bunks, a moving & pitching deck and having to learn how to cook, clean and look after each other as they get used to their new home.
It will be a challenge which will see them battle strong winds, freezing temperatures and rough seas at times throughout the trip; as well as marvelling at our beautiful coastline under sun-drenched skies. It will be a feat of pure physical, mental, emotional and academic endurance, but one which will leave the young people changed forever. One thing that Alex hasn't got is the ability to make strong bonds with his crewmates, something our young people will do. They will also increase their own understanding of themselves and their boundaries and most importantly have the confidence that they can try and excel at anything!
Although it is looking like Alex Thomson will come in at second place he will join a select few British competitors who have conquered this amazing and life defining race. In fact I believe the only other British competitor to place second (there hasn't, yet been a winner) is Dame Ellen MacArthur. Currently the Vendée Globe is the pinnacle event in the solo offshore racing calendar. British solo sailors have competed in all but the first race in 1989-90, with Dame Ellen MacArthur holding the record for the best British result when she finished a close second in 2000-1. British entries in the race peaked in 2008-9 when seven skippers from the UK entered, but in the current race, which set sail from Les Sables d’Olonne in November, there is just one – Alex Thomson sailing Hugo Boss.
We hope that by taking these 8 young people on their own pinnacle experience, by inspiring them, by letting them grow we will potentially be building in the footsteps of these giants of sailing.
Fair winds Alex, keep inspiring us!