We sat down some six months ago now and asked ourselves the question ‘What is it that we want to achieve?’ The answer was clear to each of us.
We wanted to alter the perception that sailing is a niche, elitist sport; one that few of us understand and even fewer would demonstrate an interest in. We wanted to introduce the public to one of the greatest talents in British sport and bring them closer to the story of one man from Hampshire who simply loves and lives to sail. And finally we wanted to use Alex’s story to inspire people and encourage them to believe that whatever the challenge, whatever the goal, however high the expectation or strength of the opposition, with complete self belief and the support of those around you the impossible might just be possible after all.
Alex Thomson is one of the greatest sporting talents of our generation. I say that with complete conviction because I now know it to be true. At just 25 Alex became the youngest skipper ever to win a round the world race. I turn 25 in a few months time and often I struggle to navigate my way to the local pub without having my hand held.
Alex’s talents know no boundaries; of this much we were certain from day one. But bringing other people around to our way of thinking was an entirely different ball game.
I have come to learn that that phrase alone is laced with irony. If we were here to talk about a ball game then we would have Balotelli shaking in his boots, Mancini waving wads of cash in our faces and the British press biting our hands off for a slice of the Alex Thomson story. But the sport we were introduced to was far from the glories of the football field. Here there were no lucrative advertising campaigns, no controversial media stunts and no scathing exposés of wages, wags and transfer windows.
Sadly, it is all of the above that sell newspapers.
On Thursday morning I woke at 3am; then again at 4:30am and again at 5 o’clock. I won’t complain of a restless night, for fear that a certain sailor might take my 3am wakeup call and raise me three months of sleepless days and nights. I think he’d win that contest.
Unlike Alex I did not wake to the reminder that I was alone, thousands of miles away from my family and indeed from any other living being. But I did wake to this very story being told in news outlets everywhere. One man had sailed single-handedly around the world in 80 days to break the British record and return home safely to tell the tale.
This week I hope that you will have read about the Brit who took on the most dangerous sporting challenge on the planet. But more importantly I hope that you will have read that story in the most unlikely of places. To those who listened and were inspired to put pen to paper, the words thank you don’t quite seem to cut it.
When I look back at the objectives we set at the beginning of this campaign I acknowledge just how far we have moved towards achieving them. I hope that Alex’s success, together with the humour and utter modesty that he has demonstrated throughout the entire race, have gone some way towards altering pre-conceived notions of sailors and the sport of sailing as a whole. The way in which media platforms all over the world have got behind Alex and followed his story so loyally tells me that he is, indeed, now being recognised in the way that he ought to be and that his contribution to British sport is being celebrated far and wide.
I can only hope that Alex’s story has helped to inspire others and encourage them to believe that the impossible is not only possible, but that it is achievable and well within reach.
This was an unforgettable campaign to have been a part of and I have loved every moment of it.
Enormous congratulations to Alex Thomson, the man from Hampshire who simply loves and lives to sail.
Words by Sarah Taylor