A Taste of the Vendée Globe 1 May 2009
It was thirty-four years since Brian Thompson was last in Burnham so his visit to tell us of his Vendée Globe adventures inevitably had a nostalgic tinge of ‘memory lane’ for him. An ex-Otter from 1970 -1976, he learnt his sailing skills on the Crouch and Roach. Those early years also gave him a love for sailing on his own; he would challenge himself to reach Battlesbridge in his Heron dinghy, getting back before dark so that he wasn’t missed! Those were days of simple, uncomplicated pleasures… can you imagine it happening now?
Fast forward to the Vendée Globe 2008-2009 with Brian at the helm of Bahrain Team Pindar, an Open 60, ready to face whatever the toughest race in the world, described as the ‘Everest of the Seas’, can devise for him.
There plenty of challenges, each making difficult demands which his vast offshore experience enabled him to overcome. DIY was the name of the game, with problems ranging from repairs to the huge mainsail, spread out on the foredeck, cracks in the hull, repairs to the wind generator, and the need to climb the 30m mast in big seas on Christmas Day – TWICE – as he didn’t manage to make the repair the first time!
Brian paid tribute to the race organisers who tracked the progress of each boat, warning of changing weather conditions, and, in particular, a storm with predicted wind speed of 85 knots; Brian was able to shelter behind Statten Island to avoid the worst.
Brian completed 28,000 miles in 98 days 20 hrs 29 mins 55 secs, without seeing a single soul, to finish in fifth position. Thirty boats crossed the start line but only eleven finished including the two British women, Samantha Davies and Dee Caffari.
I watch the Otters out training in their Oppies and Cadets and wonder whether there is a Brian Thompson among them… Who can tell?