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A record breaking life

Yacht Racing Podcast

This month, Shirley Robertson’s Sailing Podcast hosts one of offshore sailing’s most accomplished names, as multiple world record holder Brian Thompson drops in for a two part chat about being one of the fastest offshore sailors on the planet.

By his own admission, multihull expert Brian Thompson doesn’t even know himself how many offshore world records he’s held, but in his opening chat with Robertson, the modest British sailor does admit to knowing for a fact that no one in sailing has ever held more than he has. From transatlantics to circumnavigations, the final figure is up in the forties – a fact Brian attributes to a long time spent sailing with American adventurer Steve Fossett.

“Steve was a remarkable guy who was obsessed, and fascinated with breaking world records, and not just in sailing, but in all sorts of sports, so I think it all started with him, and we probably got fifteen world records with Steve, and later on with Lloyd Thornburg on Phaedo, we got another ten. Sometimes I’ve done the same record multiple times – round Britain three times, round the world twice, so in all I’ve probably broken near forty world records”

Robertson and Thompson discuss Brian’s first circumnavigation record onboard Fossett’s PlayStation, called Cheyenne at the time of the record attempt, and his growing ability to safely sail big boats fast in big seas. It’s now something that Thompson is well known for, and as his career developed, he was in increasing demand, finding himself on a star studded ABN AMRO I as stand in helm for a southern ocean Volvo Ocean Race leg that would prove pivotal to the team’s overall Race win.

“I really concentrate on getting the maximum VMG where there is a sweet spot where if you go half a degree lower you’re just going to fall of the cliff and stop. You could be a little bit higher, and you’re doing a nice boat speed, and it’s all very easy but to be gaining that extra one or two degrees of depth you have to play with fire, and I really enjoy that! I look for visual clues in the daytime, to help with that. Particularly in light air…that can make a massive difference to your VMG against a competitor.”

Robertson and Thompson go on to discuss the nuances of sailing fast, pushing against the clock and against other yachts, before a briefly comparing racing against auto pilots to playing chess against computers.

Part 2 of the podcast sees Brian revealing the many difficulties experienced throughout much of his solo Vendee Globe campaign of 2008, before moving onto his sensational Jules Verne record onboard Loick Peyron’s Banque Populaire V, a forty five day, thirteen hour record that stood for five years.

Part 1:

Part 2: