ALEX Thomson admits he wants to compete in the Vendee Globe for a FIFTH time in 2020/21.

At 7.40am yesterday morning, the 42-year-old crossed the finish line in the French port of Les Sables d’Olonne in 74 days, 19 hours and 35 minutes.

It was a time he would have been delighted with when he began his incredible 25,000-plus mile voyage back on November 6.

But it was not quite enough to pip Armel Le Cleac’h following a titanic battle with the Frenchman.

The pair now have the two fastest times in Vendee history and no-one would rule out Thomson emulating the Frenchman, who was runner-up in 2008 and 2012.

“A third, a second - it is easy to see what comes after this,” said Thomson.

“If I can put together a competitive campaign I’d be very interested to do the next one - but I’d best ask my wife first!”

Thomson overcame numerous obstacles, including hydrofoil damage that cost the boat 20 per cent of its potential back in November and a breakage to a crucial piece of wind measuring equipment earlier this week.

“You hope and you pray, but I think 24, 36 hours ago I knew that was the end,” Thomson said after being welcomed back to Les Sables by his wife Kate and two children.

“You never know what is going to happen - that’s part of the Vendee Globe,” he said.

“I spent the whole race thinking ‘what if?’ and I’ve had the frustrations but I don’t really want to talk about it any more. It happened, it’s finished, it’s over.

“The race is as it is. I am very happy to be in second place and maybe next time it will be one better.

“I had moments of pleasure, for sure. For me, it was an exercise in l Continued on next page trying not to be frustrated and try and be as positive as possible. It wasn’t easy. Maybe I made it seem easy.

“I didn’t enjoy this race as much as the last race, so it is not always as it seems. The last few days I haven’t really slept very much. I think I have slept five hours in three days and in the last 24 I haven’t slept at all. The tank is on empty.”

Thomson was generous in his praise of Le Cleac’h. 

“Congratulations to Armel, what a great race he has done. He’s a machine. He’s such a great sailor and to come second twice - had to be first this time, there must have been some pressure. He’s such a wonderful sailor such a nice guy, very understated and very modest.

“And the team as well. Everyone views this race as a individual race but it’s not, it’s a team race. The Banque Populaire team has done a wonderful job and full credit to them. 

“Now I want to sleep for as long as I possibly can.”

Until Thursday, the previous fastest Vendee finish was the 78 days it took Francois Gabart to win the 2012-13 edition.

Thomson smashed the previous record by more than 77 hours.

It did not come as too much of a surprise to his family though. His father Peter revealed this week: “I left a Christmas card on the boat telling Alex we would see him on January 19th!” 

The prediction was only eight hours out as Thomson completed the Vendee six days faster than his third-place finish in 2012-13, a hole in the deck and a cracked hull having wrecked his ambitions in 2004-05 and 2008-09. 

He now has the two fastest times by a Brit (Mike Golding took 88 days to finish third and sixth in 2004-05 and 2012-13 and Ellen Macarthur, the only other Brit to finish second, was on the water for 94 days in 2000-01).

Who is to say Thomson will not go even faster when the ninth edition of the Vendee Globe takes place in 2020-21?

It is easy to forget now that he led the race for the first few weeks, until his starboard hydrofoil suffered damage at the end of November (he also lost valuable preparation time when the Hugo Boss capsized in the Bay of Biscay 12 months earlier).

But it was a staggering effort to get as close as he did considering he was 800 miles adrift just before Christmas.

Sailing fans from across the world have been glued to the Vendee Globe’s tracker over the last three weeks as Thomson chipped away at Le Cleac’h’s seemingly insurmountable lead.

With his sense of humour keeping his challenge in perspective, he got to within 33 nautical miles (nm) of his foe.

When he broke the world record for the most miles sailed in 24 hours (536.8) last Monday, it looked like he might become Britain’s first winner of a solo round-the-world yacht race for 49 years.

Despite his disappointment, Thomson’s positivity has shone through over the last few months, a source of great pride for his family. Dad Pete did not expect Alex to hold back on the celebrations last night.

“We have to be careful because his body won’t be ready for a party but Alex always comes through on the occasion. The party will be massive!”