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Alex puts Gosport on the map
AFTER three months alone at sea, he suddenly had all the company he could wish for.
Hundreds of wellwishers braved pouring rain and near-freezing temperatures to greet record-breaking Hampshire yachtsman Alex Thomson as he made a triumphant return to his home town.
Alex, 38, completed the Vendee Globe round the world race in just 80 days, smashing the British record by eight days.
In the process he became the fastest Briton to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe in a monohull yacht.
Depending on their gender, everyone wanted to kiss, embrace or simply shake the hand of the homecoming hero.
Alex finished third in the Vendee Globe event, earning a congratulatory Tweet from Hollywood star Ewan McGregor.
He was greeted by a sea of umbrellas as his racing yacht Hugo Boss entered Portsmouth Harbour on Saturday and made its way to Haslar Creek.
Many of the wellwishers were waving orange flags emblazoned with his name. There were whoops of delight and cries of “Well done Alex” and the sleek, silver-coloured craft drew up alongside one of the pontoons.
Alex sprayed the crowd with champagne before taking a well-earned swig. There to greet him were his wife Kate, 31, and their two-year-old son Oscar, who waited and worried during the 80 days, 19 hours, 23 minutes and 43 seconds he spent at sea.
The mayor, Councillor Richard Dickson, told him: “Well done, mate – you’ve put Gosport on the world map.”
Alex boarded the marina’s lightship and made his way to the top deck, where he acknowledged the cheers of the crowd.
Cllr Dickson declared: “What a fantastic achievement – and he’s a guy from Gosport. Aren’t we proud of him?”
When Alex said he was looking forward to a vacation Cllr Dickson leaned towards the microphone and joked: “I don’t know why he wants a holiday, he’s just had a world cruise!”
As the laughter subsided, he told him: “You’re a legend and one of the great Gosportonians.”
Alex replied: “It’s fantastic to come home and get a welcome like this, especially in the pouring rain. “It’s very humbling.”
The yachtsman is hoping to take part in the Round the Island race and will “definitely” compete in another Vendee Globe event. But for the moment, British sailing’s newest hero is happy to be back on land with his friends and family.
“I’m looking forward to walking on the beach or going down the High Street and grabbing a coffee – all the simple things in life we take for granted,” he said.