Mercers' Lecture Review: Alex Thomson

When Alex Thomson first arrived here at Dauntsey’s he spent time with 18 pupils who introduced themselves to him with their best sailing experience. He then had a Q&A session during which he spoke of success and failure, about setting a big goal and then looking for the next most useful thing to do towards that goal. He talked about life at sea and the fact he believes the Vendee is the hardest challenge on earth. About competition and fraternity between sailors, and about safety and risk at sea and how you manage it.

After dinner at the Head Master’s house it was time for Alex’s lecture to a packed-out auditorium. He told the story of his attempt at the Vendee, describing his priorities as To Start, To Finish and To Win. He told the audience that there are four years of hard work that goes into each race, about managing his team, and the challenge of persuading his sponsors to give him 5.5m euro each time.

He told the story about the night his foil failed in the Southern Ocean and the realisation that despite his commanding lead, his attempt to win the race was over, and then about the shifting of his goals to allow him to fight all the way to the end and to second place.

Alex spoke eloquently about working with a sports psychologist and his shifting mentality from “If I win I’ll be happy” to “If I am happy, I’ll win”, and he announced his recent decision to have one more go at the race.

Finally, he told the story of his proudest moment when sailing. It was not as many would have guessed, his second place in the Vendee but when during a practice race he broke the boat so badly that he had to be rescued by helicopter and how, upon towing the wrecked hull into La Coruna, he found his team understandably dejected and sad. The fact that his team picked themselves up and worked together to repair the boat to race again mad him more proud than anything else.

Alex was a compelling and entertaining speaker with a down to earth manner that everyone in the audience found accessible, enjoyable and inspiring

Pupils, parents and the local community are really looking forward to the next Mercers’ Lecture from Dr Bettany Hughes, on Wednesday 11 October. Dr Bettany Hughes is an award-winning historian, author and broadcaster who specialises in ancient and mediaeval history and culture. She has written and presented more than 50 TV and radio documentaries which have reached some 250 million people worldwide. ‘Britain’s Secret Treasures’, which she co-presented with Michael Buerk, was a particular highlight.
All are welcome. Entry is free but please book online.

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