Brian, who lives on the Isle of Wight, will be recording sightings of marine life for Earthwatch as he skippers Team Pindar's Open 60 in the non-stop race which covers 23,000 nautical miles and takes around three months. Earthwatch scientists will also be submitting regular articles about the threats facing our oceans to time with Brian's updates and blogs from Team Pindar's Open 60, a high performance yacht. The challenge starts and finishes in Les Sables d'Olonne in France, and Brian will sail solo round the Cape of Good Hope, travel clockwise around Antarctica through the treacherous Southern Ocean, before rounding the Cape Horn and heading home.
Brian joined Team Pindar in August 2007 as skipper of the Pindar Open 60. He believes he has a good chance of winning the race. He explains, "The Pindar Open 60 is a very fast boat, one of the fastest in the fleet, and I have six years experience sailing the Open 60 class. Winning the Artemis Challenge during Cowes week so convincingly certainly showed Pindar to be a serious entrant into this race. "
He says, "Having first learnt to sail at just three years old, the ocean has always been a major part of my life. Being out on the water is where I come alive - it can be exhilarating, beautiful and also very challenging. Consequently, I have grown to develop an enormous respect for it. With over 70 per cent of the earth's surface covered by water, the oceans are under threat, from endangered marine life, pollution, over harvesting and climate change. I am delighted to be working with Earthwatch and looking forward to learning more about how we can all play a part in tackling the issues that are harming our planet."
Sailing is Brian's fulltime occupation, and he spends around a third of his time out on the water. The rest of the time is spent preparing the boat and doing weather and fitness training, and media activities. Brian says, "Sailing can provide an amazing sense of freedom. I also relish the competition and the technical challenges involved with sailing an Open 60. To have the opportunity to skipper the Pindar Open 60 in the Vendée Globe is a dream come true, enabling me to compete against the best offshore sailors in the world."
Brian believes the essential qualities of an offshore racer are a love of the ocean, significant technical ability, and the ability of stay in control and think of long-term strategies; it's also important to be able to take risks where necessary.
He is currently preparing for the race by spending as much time as possible on the Open 60. He explains, "I am undertaking a lot of gym work. I also swim and cycle regularly. I am also working on weather training, which simulates various weather scenarios and enables me to practise planning routes to sail, giving me hypothetical outcomes relating to the decisions I have made."
Although the race will push his physical and mental endurance to the limit, and he will experience violent seas and storms, prolonged sleep deprivation, extreme isolation, and perpetual cold and damp for over three months, Brian enjoys the serenity and challenge of solo sailing, and the satisfaction of getting things right based entirely on his own decisions. Equally, he enjoys the camaraderie of sailing with others.
During the race his time on the boat will be divided four ways; 25 per cent will be spent maneuvering the boat, 25 per cent will ensure he gets maximum speed out of the boat, 25 per cent will be navigating and finding the best route through the weather, and the remainder will be allocated to looking after his own wellbeing - sleeping and eating, as well as communicating with the shore team and the media.
Brian is looking forward to flying the flag for Earthwatch and helping to raise awareness of the charity's oceans programme. He adds, "The Pindar Open 60 has recently undergone a refit and has been modified with environmental issues in mind, including solar panels. My goal is to make the boat's consumption of electricity carbon free for the Vendée Globe Race, through very efficient solar panels, plus wind generation. It's a big challenge, especially with the very high consumption from the hydraulic motor used to cant the keel. Apart from making an environmental statement, it will have a double sporting benefit for the campaign, through making the boat lighter by removing hundreds of kilos of fuel, and making it more reliable without the reliance on internal combustion engines."
• The Pindar and AlphaGraphics businesses are committed to improving environmental standards and the partnership with Earthwatch is part of the Pindar Group's five-year Respect the Planet change management programme. In November 2007, they joined the Earthwatch Corporate Environmental Responsibility Group and generously provided Earthwatch with a charitable contribution of $100,000 USD to support its field research and education programmes. Earthwatch and Pindar share a commitment to protecting the oceans. Through its sponsorship of sailing, Pindar will help raise awareness of the Earthwatch oceans programme which comprises 18 scientific research projects studying coastal ecosystems and threatened marine species.
To follow Brian's progress please visit: www.teampindar.com
Find out more about Earthwatch's marine projects.
Earthwatch ambassador and record-breaking yachtsman Brian Thompson will be looking to make history by becoming the first British sailor to win the most coveted prize in solo ocean racing.