ONE of the world’s largest and most innovative technology and communications businesses has formed a long-term partnership with one of the biggest names in the sport of ocean racing.

Gosport based sailing team Alex Thomson Racing has teamed up with Nokia and its industrial research and innovation engine, Nokia Bell Labs.

The partnership, which continues through to 2021, will see Nokia Bell Labs join forces with skipper Alex Thomson and his team, as he looks to become the first British sailor to win the iconic Vendée Globe race.

One of the toughest sporting challenges in the world, the Vendée Globe is a 24,000 mile solo, non-stop unassisted race around the world. The challenge sees skippers battle through vast, unpredictable waters and brutal conditions, with winds up to 70mph and mountainous waves. When the race reaches the depths of the Southern Ocean and skippers pass Point Nemo, they find themselves closer to the International Space Station than any being on earth, making communications capabilities crucial and emergency rescue virtually impossible.

Nokia Bell Labs will work alongside Thomson - and his IMOCA 60 race boat – to develop and test both existing and new cutting-edge technologies. From augmented intelligence and wearable technology

For sailors like Thomson, the Vendée Globe represents the ultimate physical and psychological challenge. In the last edition of the race the British sailor slept no more than one hour at a time over the course of 74 days, 19 hours and 35 minutes, single-handedly fulfilling the roles of skipper, navigator, meteorologist, engineer and medic.

Nokia will explore onboard and shore-based technologies and systems in a bid to enhance the team's performance. In doing so, the project will align with Nokia’s ongoing focus to push technology limits to support mission critical networks in the 5G era.

Stewart Hosford, CEO of Alex Thomson Racing, said: “Technology, analytics and data are now more crucial to our performance than ever before. Today’s IMOCA boats are some of the most technically advanced machines in the world of sport. This is evidenced by the Volvo Ocean Race’s decision to move into foiling monohulls under the IMOCA class, another exciting step forward for our sport. This is therefore the perfect time for Nokia to enter this space, and to explore the wealth of opportunities that exist for research and development."