Sailor Alex Thomson set for hero's welcome after Vendee Globe epic


British sailor Alex Thomson is set for a hero's welcome after claiming second place finish in the gruelling Vendee Globe solo round-the-world yacht race.

Last month the 42-year-old Welshman was denied the glory of being the first Briton to win offshore racing's ultimate test by Frenchman Armel Le Cleac'h - with just 16 hours separating the pair.

The record-breaking sailor finished in 74 days, 19 hours and 35 minutes, with equipment issues eventually seeing him fall short in his quest to become the first non-French winner of the race.

On Saturday he is set to be welcomed back to his home town of Gosport, Hampshire with a parade of sail on the Solent and into Portsmouth Harbour.

And after mooring up his £3.5 million Hugo Boss boat on Gosport Ferry pontoon, the celebration will then move to Falklands Gardens for a civic reception.

Leader of Gosport Borough Council, councillor Mark Hook, said: "Alex's achievement was astounding - it will inspire so many people.

"Gosport is very proud of him, and we wanted to make sure he had a real hero's welcome from the borough."

During the race he set a new world record for the most distance sailed solo in 24 hours, and broke his own 80 day record to become the fastest Briton to sail solo around the world in a monohull.

But just 13 days into the race, dubbed the Everest of racing, the father-of-two's carbon fibre boat hit an unidentified object submerged in the water, causing his starboard foil to break.

This coupled with the issues he had with the wind instruments on the boat - preventing the autopilot working properly - denied him the chance of victory.

During the Golden Globe competition 48 years ago, which was the forerunner to the Vendee Globe, Sir Robin Knox Johnston became the last Briton to win a solo non-stop around the world race.

The yachting legend took on a 24-year-old Thomson to skipper one of his boats during the 1998 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race - co-founded by Sir Robin more than 20 years ago.

Thomson guided his crew, sailing on a 60ft yacht called Ariel, to victory during that Clipper Race and remains the youngest skipper to achieve the feat.

Sir Robin said Thomson did "extraordinarily well" during the Vendee Globe and that it is "high time" someone breaks his record - something he hopes Thomson will one day do.

"We are sending one of our Clipper Race boats out to welcome Alex back to Gosport, where our training base is also located," Sir Robin told the Press Association

"We have one of our former Skippers, along with staff and some of our current crew members heading out to welcome him back.

"To us, he will always be one of our Clipper Race family. We're all very proud of him."