The Vendée Globe Round the World Non-Stop Solo Yacht Race is just hours off the coast of Ireland today as the leaders race to win the coveted title, after 70 days at sea.
While the first and only Irish entrant to the race, entrepreneur Enda O’Coineen, was forced to withdraw when a squall in the Southern Ocean broke the mast, there are still keen Irish interests at work to win the race.
Having spent much of his youth in Crosshaven where his love of sailing was fostered, Alex Thomson’s seamanship is being tested to the max as he battles to win arguably the world’s most challenging race.
Currently in second place and representing Britain on the Hugo Boss yacht, Alex is hunting the race favourite and long-time leader Armel Le Cleac’h, on board the French Banque Populaire yacht, as they turn in the English Channel before a final drag race to the finish line off the French coast.
No one is watching the race more closely than Irishman Stewart Hosford, who is CEO of Hugo Boss Sailing and Alex Thomson Racing.
'In the year that saw Ireland win an Olympic medal for Sailing, and the first Irish entry to the Vendée Globe, it would be wonderful to see the team led by an Irishman win the globe’s most challenging race,' said Stewart Hosford, CEO of Hugo Boss Sailing and leading sports consultancy firm, 5° West .
Hopes are high that the Welsh-born Alex Thomson will make history by becoming the first non-French team to win the Vendée Globe. He has already broken a world record this week for the greatest distance sailed solo in 24 hours, and with just hours left to go, he is outpacing and closing in on the leader.
Speaking from France, where they are expecting the winners to arrive within 24 hours, Stewart Hosford said: 'The leaders have sailed almost 40,000km in 70 days, with less than an hour’s sleep at a time. Weather conditions are unstable and currently difficult to predict, and yet they have just hours left to fight this incredible battle to win. Godspeed Alex!'
A number of international teams involved in the Vendée Globe have strong Irish connections. The Team Director of the French team, SMA, is lead by Corkman Marcus Hutchinson, while Tony O’Connor from Dublin is responsible for the first Japanese entry, Spirit of Yukoh.
Unfortunately both of these entries had to retire during the course of the race, leaving it to the Hugo Boss Sailing team to keep Irish hopes high.
Certainly the Irish are well represented and highly respected in global sailing community. With four years left to the next Vendée Globe, there should be plenty of time to secure a strong entry for Team Ireland in 2020.