Ocean racing legend felled by cancer

Ocean racer Alan Wynne Thomas, has died aged 67 from cancer. A courageous and well-respected sailor, Wynne-Thomas dismissed sponsorship and publicity, but could not avoid making the headlines after suffering two knockdowns in the 1992-93 Vendee Globe solo, non-stop round the world race. He was the only British entrant in his Open 60 Cardiff Discovery and at 52 degrees south – between Kerguelen Isand and Heard Island – he was hit by giant seas. His rudder and tiller were smashed and he was thrown 10ft across the cabin. For 11 days he crawled around the boat in the Southern Ocean, injecting himself through his survival suit with pain killers until he sailed into Hobart. Exhausted after sailing 13,600 miles in 68 days, he was still in considerable pain. A Hobart doctor diagnosed several broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung.

In the 1984 OSTAR sailing the 40ft Jemima Nicholas, Wynne-Thomas was awarded a 3 hour 30 minutes allowance for rescuing John Mansell, skipper of the 35ft Double Brown, which was abandoned with structural problems.

In the 1988 OSTAR Wynne-Thomas was leading his class in Triton Sifo a 39ft Nigel Irens designed trimaran until she started taking in water and had to be towed into Nantucket by a Coastguard launch.

When Ellen MacArthur first got involved in racing she helped Wynne-Thomas sail Elan Sifo back to France from Newport after he competed in the Europe 1 Star (single-handed) Transatlantic Race. Soon after this, Ellen started competing herself.
In an online blog, tribute was paid to Wynne-Thomas by a relative: ‘He was a man’s man, anti-sponsorship/commercialism , played rugby for Maesteg and Harlequins and took part in a few OSTAR transatlantics, a Vendee Globe and many other races.’