How com Alex Thomson hasn't had a dressing down from HUGO BOSS?


Since winning the Clipper Round the World Race in 1998-99 at the age of 25 – he’s still the youngest skipper to do so – it’s been a fairly rocky road for Alex Thomson. He kept up with the leaders in the 2004-5 Vendee Globe until, allegedly pushing too hard, he suffered ‘structural problems’ when he broke the gooseneck on HUGO BOSS 1 and stuffed the boom through the deck. He limped into Cape Town for repairs.

BOSS kept the faith, repaired the boat and bankrolled Thomson’s entry in the Velux 5 Oceans Race in 2006. That too ended in expensive fashion when ‘structural problems’ caused the canting keel on HUGO BOSS 1 to break free and eventually drop out. The boat sank but not before foe-turned-friend Mike Golding rescued him from the icy grip of the Southern Ocean in ECOVER. Off to Cape Town again.

Impressed with his wild mane of blond hair and youthful exuberance, BOSS backed their man and coughed up for a new Open 60, HUGO BOSS II. She and Thomson proved a good match and he extended his solo, 24-hour record to 501.3 miles.

Things kept getting better. Next Thomson overcame his Round The World hoo-doo when, together with navigator Andrew Cape, he finished second, albeit a distant second, in the two-handed Barcelona World Race in 2008. Bring on the Vendee Globe!

With confidence oozing from every stitch of his sharp suit, Thomson set off for Les Sables d’Olonne a couple of weeks before the start. In the early hours he was waiting outside Les Sables d’Olonne for the tide to change when HUGO BOSS II was T-boned by a trawler causing, unsurprisingly, ‘structural failure’.

Despite a valiant effort and generous offers of assistance from the fleet and the town, HUGO BOSS II barely limped over the start before ‘structural problems’, apparently unrelated to his piscatorial prang, forced him to retire.

That’s three solo round the world races, and three retirements. Not a glittering record for a solo round the world racer. It wouldn’t be surprising if BOSS had sharpened its elegantly tailored sword and poked Thomson along the plank he seems to be walking here. But, even as Mike Golding, Sam Davies and Dee Caffari, all of whom have completed solo races around the world, lose their sponsors, BOSS are still backing their man.

Could it be that, far from being disappointed with their man’s struggle to make it around the world, BOSS is actually very pleased with the headlines, features and TV shows that have arisen out of the ashes of Thomson’s thwarted ambition? Does failure, structural or otherwise, deliver more bang per buck than success?