Sailing's daredevil

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British sailor Alex Thomson is famous for his eye-catching stunts, including this audacious mast walk.

A helicopter overview shot of Thomson as he charges up the mast.

A suited Thomson cuts a dapper figure as he prepares for his stunt.

Thomson comes into Les Sables D’Olonne harbor with an escort of small boats in 2012 after finishing third in the seventh edition of the Vendee Globe race.

Thomson is reunited with his wife Kate and son Oscar after finishing the 2012 Vendee Globe race.

Thomson trials his Hugo Boss yacht as he prepares for the 2016 Vendee Globe.

Thomson is in sole charge of the 10-ton, 60-foot yacht as he prepares for his ultimate goal.

Thomson’s 2008 Vendee bid was wrecked after a collision with a fishing boat, which he here describes to the media.

Thompson sat out 2014 New York-Barcelona race while his wife had their second child. His replacement, American Ryan Breymaier, helped Pepe Ribes to take line honors.

Thomson’s Hugo Boss monohull yacht against the imposing backdrop of London’s historic Tower Bridge.

Thomson has not ruled out another daring exploit which relies on teamwork and precision sailing.

Thomson hurtles up to the top of the mast, aware that the boat can keel at any moment and fling him either onto the deck or the water below

At the finish of his mast walk, Thomson dived into the ocean waters.














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(CNN) — His daredevil stunts have attracted over 3.5 million hits on YouTube and reached uncharted waters for sailing, but for his next trick Alex Thomson just wants to get back to doing what he does best — circumnavigating the globe faster than anyone else.

His “crazy ideas” have ended up with the 40-year-old walking along the keel of his Hugo Boss yacht and then — even more daringly — scaling the height of its huge sail before diving into the water.

Thomson was dressed for both stunts in the stylish menswear associated with his sponsor. Their longstanding relationship dates back to 2003, with Thomson having made headlines in a more conventional sporting manner through his exploits in long-distance ocean racing.

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As far back as 1999 he became the youngest skipper to win a round the world race, and he’s a multiple record-holder for distance covered in 24 hours at sea.

But perhaps the biggest prize, the Vendee Globe — the ultimate single-handed round the world race, sailed nonstop and without assistance — has eluded him.

“It’s a supreme test of human endeavor, truly man against the elements,” the British sailor told CNN.

“I equate it to challenging for an Olympic gold in a four-year cycle, and you must peak at the right time.

“Ben Ainslie (the four-time gold medalist from Britain in sailing) does this perfectly and I want to emulate him.”

Read: A drop in the ocean for sailing’s stuntman

There are still two and a half years to the start of the next Vendee Globe race in Les Sables-d’Olonne in southwest France, but for Thomson it cannot come around fast enough.

His 2008 challenge was ruined by a collision with a fishing boat which wrecked his preparations, and he finished third in the 2012 edition.

Thomson finished just over two days behind winner Francois Gabart of France after 80 days of racing, setting a British record for a solo round the world race in the process.

“The big win has eluded me,” he said.

British ambition

Ainslie, who won his Olympic golds in dinghy classes, has announced he will lead an ambitious $134 million British bid to win the America’s Cup in 2017.

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One of the key members of that syndicate is Keith Mills, a businessman who ran Britain’s successful bid for the London 2012 Olympics and is a co-founder of the Alex Thomson Racing team.

The planning required for the America’s Cup is on a similar scale to the Vendee — but instead of being part of a big crew, Thompson will be on his own as he negotiates his way around dangerous oceans at the helm of a 10-ton, 60-foot yacht.

“The boats are absolute beasts with a sail area of three tennis courts alone,” said the Welshman, who was born in the coastal town of Bangor.

“It very much depends whether you are physically fit enough to do this kind of thing.”

His eponymous team’s current boat successfully competed in long-distance events under previous owners, winning the 2010-11 Barcelona World Race.

It has been extensively refitted and a new keel added to keep pace with the opposition.

“It’s like Formula One, with thousands of things to do and test,” said Thompson in equating the scale of the challenge.

Unlike F1, the chance to test equipment in race conditions is limited — “and we don’t have the budgets of the likes of Ferrari.”

Although 2016 appears a long way off, the team have to make the most of the opportunities.

“We have two or three big events and about 20,000 individual components that can go wrong,” Thomson admitted.

Family commitment

He had to sit out one of those events – the IMOCA Ocean Masters race from New York to Barcelona — because his wife was due to give birth to their second child.

Georgia, weighing in at seven pounds seven ounces, was indeed born at a time when a less attentive father might have been mid-Atlantic.

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But the race provided a welcome boost for Thomson’s long-term aspirations as Spaniard Pepe Ribes and his replacement — American Ryan Breymaier — took line honors after just over 14 days at sea.

They took advantage when an accident on board rival Safran meant the race leader had to stop in Cadiz so one of its skippers could get medical treatment.

While not a serious injury, it was a painful reminder of the inherent dangers in ocean racing.

“The Atlantic is as dangerous as any place, particularly in the spring and winter,” Thomson said.

He will pair with Ribes for the 2014-15 edition of the Barcelona World Race, which starts on New Year’s Eve from the Catalan city and will finish in its port by the end of March 2015.

Then it will be back to fine-tuning for the Vendee Globe, where victory and the likely chance of being crowned winner of the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship is firmly in his sights.

And, as for any more eye-catching stunts, Thomson is keeping his cards close to his chest.

“We usually do them around September and it takes a fair bit of planning,” he revealed.

“Perhaps the most important thing is that it showcases our sport to people who don’t sail and maybe we can tempt people to take it up.”

Read: Kate Middleton adds glamor to America’s Cup bid

Read: Ainslie signs off with fourth straight gold

Read: Capsized sailor rescued in 2008 Vendee

Read: Drama on the high seas at 2012 Vendee

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