Alex Thomson: British sailor crashes boat as nap 'costs him victory' in solo transatlantic race

Russell Hope. news reporter

A British sailor, who overslept and crashed into land, probably costing him victory in a marathon solo race, said he will "keep a brave face, keep smiling, come back and do it all again".

Alex Thomson was 15 hours ahead of the field as he approached the finish line in the Route de Rhum, a 3,542-nautical mile solo transatlantic race.

With the end in sight, he decided to take a power nap, missed his alarms and overslept and crashed into the Caribbean archipelago of Guadeloupe.

Mr Thomson, 44, woke at around 1.45am on Friday to find he had run aground on rocky cliffs on the northernmost tip of Grande Terre island and used his boat's motor to pull clear.

The captain saved his IMOCA class monohull, named Hugo Boss, from being wrecked, and crossed the finish-line first, but was handed a 24-hour penalty by the race jury for using the engine.

The sanction means Thomson almost certainly will not win the race and could even drop out of top three.

The Gosport-born sailor, who appeared remarkably composed despite his misfortune, told reporters in Guadeloupe the punishment was fair, because "I don't think I should win the race after hitting Guadeloupe".

His remark was greeted with spontaneous applause from his audience.

Mr Thomson had been sleeping in 20 to 40 minute bursts every two to four hours during the race, and had an alarm clock wired to a loud horn to wake him up.

In case he was still asleep five minutes later, a shockwave watch was designed to deliver a mild electric shock.

Unfortunately, he slept right through the horn on Thursday, and the watch failed to work because it was not fully charged.

Mr Thomson said it was "very frustrating, but it could have been worse. I have my boat and as you can see I'm all in one piece.

"I'm going to keep a brave face, keep smiling, come back and do it all again. Ultimately we're here to try and win the
Vendee Globe in 2020 and there's some great stuff we've learned that we can take forward."

The likely winner is Paul Meilhat on SMA and Thomson said: "I hope Paul will win...and I look forward to welcoming him tomorrow. He should be the winner".