One of the most high-profile commercial partnerships in the history of the IMOCA Class is over, with Alex Thomson announcing today in Paris that he will not compete in the next Vendée Globe.

The announcement brings to end his 18-year relationship with the German fashion house Hugo Boss which has spent tens of millions of euros on Thomson who has entered the Vendée Globe five times with best finishes of second (2016-17) and third (2012/13).

Speaking at a press conference in Paris, Thomson, 47, said he had decided not to compete as a skipper in the next Vendée Globe but did not rule out returning to the race in 2028.

The most successful British skipper in the race said he now wanted to devote more time to his family after a relentless schedule of competition over the last 20 years in a career punctuated by dramatic accidents and disasters.

“I have had the privilege to compete and race in IMOCA 60s for almost 20 years,”said Thomson. “I love the sport, but it’s now time for me to spend more time on land with my young family. My wife Kate has single-handedly raised our children for the last 10 years whilst I have pursued my dream."

“Now I want to support Kate and allow her the same opportunity she has given me,”he continued. “This doesn’t mean that I am retiring, just changing my role, from spending most of my time at sea, to spending more of it on land.”

Thomson says he also wants to help a younger skipper achieve what he never quite managed in trying to become the first Briton ever to win the Vendée Globe. It is understood that Thomson, who lives in Jersey, is looking for a new sponsor to back a younger skipper and is hoping that any new partnership will build an IMOCA at Carrington Boats in Britain to a design by VPLP.

The identity of the skipper in question has not been confirmed but an article in The Times in London mentioned the British Class 40 and Multi50 racer Sam Goodchild as a possible candidate.

For much of his career Thomson has been the leading foreign threat to French dominance of the IMOCA class. A sailor who rose to prominence when skippering an amateur fully-crewed round the world race, he set several records in the IMOCA Class but never managed to win a race.

Alex Thomson Racing© Alex Thomson Racing

Criticised in some quarters for pushing his boats too hard, Thomson was also the victim of cruel misfortune, not least the occasion in 2008 when his yacht was rammed by a trawler while anchored outside Les Sables D’Olonne before the Vendée Globe start.

In recent years the theme of setbacks has continued. In the 2018 Route du Rhum Thomson was on course for a convincing win, only to fall asleep in the closing stages and hit the island of Guadeloupe. In the Transat Jacques Vabre the following year, he and Neal McDonald were forced to retire when the keel became detached from their boat in mid-Atlantic after a collision with debris in the water.

Then in the last Vendée Globe, Thomson led the fleet in the early stages going south in the Atlantic but his boat suffered serious structural damage. The ever- cheerful British skipper made repairs, but then abandoned the race when problems with his steering forced him to head for Cape Town.

Thomson is now thought to have sold his latest Hugo Boss yacht. Reflecting on his career, he focused on the positives with the German company that has backed him through thick and thin and through some spectacular and unique promotional activity, not least his famous “mast walk” and “sky walk” videos.

“Obviously none of what we have achieved would have been possible without our partners and I am eternally grateful to Hugo Boss for the support and loyalty they have shown me,”he said. “Together we have inspired and engaged people all over the world and become a leading brand within the sport of sailing.”

Ed Gorman