British solo sailor Alex Thomson smashed the single-handed monohull trans-Atlantic record — by more than 24 hours — crossing the finish line Thursday at Lizard Point, off Falmouth in Cornwall, England, in time to get back for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London today.
The 38-year-old crossed the line at 18:17 British Standard Time, setting the new time at 8 days, 22 hours, 8 minutes, beating the previous record (subject to ratification by the World Sailing Speed Record Council), which had stood for 10 years.
"It has been a long few days," Thomson said. "The first half from New York was great with weather conditions in our favor, but things started to slow down the closer I got. But the wind has held out this morning and it's so fantastic to have broken this record."
Thomson set sail from New York on July 17 at 19:09 GMT to cover 2,800 nautical miles in a quest to break the record for what is officially known as the West to East Ambrose Lighthouse to Lizard Point Under 60-foot Single-Handed Monohull Record, which sat at 10 days, 55 minutes and 19 seconds, and was set by Swiss sailor Bernhard Stamm 10 years ago.
Thomson’s secondary aim was to get home in time for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in order to support chairman and good friend Sir Keith Mills.
"When I set off I had no idea if I was going to be able to do it. And it has been hard. Lack of sleep, broken instruments on the boat and constant exposure to the elements has really taken it out of me. But it's such a good feeling to have beaten it by such a great margin," said Thomson.
But the record-breaking achievement is only half of the story. Thomson is, in fact, lining up to attempt to be the first Brit ever to win the grueling single-handed round-the-world Vendee Globe race, leaving from France in November on board his 60-foot monohull, Hugo Boss.
"This record attempt was also a training exercise for the Vendee Globe," Thomson said.
Click here to read a report by The News, a newspaper near Thomson’s hometown of Gosport.