Alex THOMSON will take the start of the 4,100 mile single-handed 'Défi Atlantique' qualifier race for the Vendée Globe 2004 at 1500hrs GMT (1200hrs local time) on Sunday 30 November 2003 from Salvador, Brazil to La Rochelle, France.
Alex will race his newly acquired Open 60, previously skippered by World Champion Roland Jourdain, under the name of 'AT Racing', whilst the search for a title sponsor for Alex Thomson Racing continues.
The Défi Atlantique is a new event in the IMOCA calendar, and will be run under the same rules as the Vendée Globe: for Open 60 monohulls only, non-stop, with no routing, no outside assistance, and of course single-handed. This first East to West and longest solo transatlantic race provides skippers with only one of two opportunities to qualify for the Vendée Globe, and the only one which allows them ample time to thoroughly prepare their boats for the November 7 start of the RTW yachting 'Everest'.
Alex will be not only aiming to complete his qualification on his newly acquired Open 60, but also pitting himself for 20 days against 8 of his main rivals in next year's Vendée Globe, including Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac) and Mike Golding (Ecover), with whom he shared the podium of the recent Transat Jacques Vabre. His phenomenal 2nd place finish just 10 days ago as the first British skipper in this double-handed event with Roland Jourdain in the monohull class has enabled Alex to learn an incredible amount under real racing conditions, which has put him in a fighting position for his first solo race on an Open 60.
The challenging prospect of 4,100 miles of predominantly upwind or close reaching conditions, with obstacles such as the Doldrums, Azores High, South and North East Trades, North Atlantic storms and choppy cross seas of the Bay of Biscay, is something Alex is now looking forward to: "To finish this race means that I get one step nearer to the ultimate goal of competing in the Vendée Globe - that is the first priority. Getting 4,000 miles of experience under my belt on board 'AT Racing' and covering exactly the same route and conditions as the final part of the Vendée itself is the second most important thing. Lastly, I am going to be competitive, of course, and the Défi Atlantique will give me a strong indication of where I lie amongst this field of future Vendée Globe competitors."
Rendez-vous in la Rochelle around the 18 - 20 December for the race arrivals.