London, Wednesday 27th May: 5 Oceans Sports Marketing can today confirm the second competitor campaigning to be on the start line of The Race Around.
He’s a guy for whom adventure is the ultimate calling. Gaëtan Thomas, aged 32, wants to beat the solo, non-stop, around the world speed record for a Class40. The previous record was set by the late Guo Chuan, currently standing at 137 days. Gaëtan's goal is to set a new record at closer to 100 days, a benchmark set by the larger IMOCA60 in the earlier editions of the Vendée Globe.
After his around the world record attempt scheduled for late 2020, Gaëtan wants to rub shoulders with many of the sports most talented competitors by taking part in The Race Around. When asked why, he answered “because the level of competition will be high and I’m looking to further myself against the best!”
Whilst in Lorient, putting the finishing touches on his Class40 #55 ‘Be The Drop' Gaëtan took time to speak with The Race Around about his journey and the challenges that await.
Gaëtan, you've recently announced your intentions to break the current Class40, solo around the world speed record! Can you tell us more about your journey to date?
“I’m Belgian by birth, 32 years of age and I’ve been sailing since I was a child but I became a ‘professional’ in 2009. My first adventure in a boat was on a small Corsair and then a 35ft cruiser. From sailing with my family I went on to compete in the Optimist and 420, even representing the Belgian national team! I did this until the age of 15 when I took a break from the water due to family and financial reasons. To be honest I went a little crazy, I finished school the day before my 16th birthday but the call to return to the ocean was strong and by the age of 18 I knew I had to return and that sailing professionally was my dream.”
So the Class40? Why did you choose this record?
“After the Clipper Race I needed to continue the story. The question was whether to target the Vendée Globe or not?! We finished our race in 2018 and 2020 would have come too soon! That and the IMOCA/Vendée budgets have gone crazy. My dream has always been to circumnavigate the globe solo and to do it on a racing machine! After doing some research I found the stories of Guo Chuan’s around the world record set in 2013. He completed his voyage in 137 days, so that’s the target. My attempt will start at Ushant and finish at Ushant. I’ll look to start in October, November or December. I’m going into this project with a new voice and I hope my record attempt will inspire others to get to know the Class40 better. These boats are now more efficient than the older generation IMOCA60, much more sustainable too. I cannot hide my own personal challenge to beat the time of the first Vendee Globe by completing the course in closer to 100 days.”
Following your record attempt you want to test yourself against other Class40 sailors in The Race Around? Why?
“As I mentioned, I always had the intention of launching a campaign for the Vendée Globe in 2024. I would have done the Route du Rhum in 2022 and the Transat Jacques-Vabre in 2023 but when looking at the budgets required it seems unattainable. I want to compete against the best and soon after exploring the IMOCA60s I found The Race Around. When I read that Lalou Roucayrol had signed up and that a large number of very good skippers from various classes were talking about it, I thought it made perfect sense and I had to include it within my racing schedule. The fact that there is the possibility to race solo or double-handed is also interesting. My intention is to compete in the Class40 circuit on a newer boat or perhaps even a new build. The Class40 represents unbelievable value for commercial partners, it’s exciting!”
Sam Holliday, Founder and Managing Director of The Race Around said “We cannot move forward without referencing the troubles the world currently faces. Our hearts go out to those that have lost loved ones and those that have been affected by the current crisis. Here at The Race Around we have used this time to look deeper into who we are as an organisation and who we are as a race. We've talked with our key stakeholders, commercial partners and the many teams that have expressed an interest in competing. We strongly believe that the time has never been more right for an event such as The Race Around and we believe the Class40 is the perfect platform on which to base it. We look forward to introducing the public to more entries, our Race Partners and various host cities”