Brian Thompson

Is this the man to finally win the Mini-Transat for Britain, asks Ed Gorman
Mark Turner was fifth in 1997, Alex Bennett was fifth in 1999; can Brian Thompson go four better and win the Mini-Transat in 2001? Can Thompson become the first Briton to win this devil of a race, one of the toughest competitions in world sailing? Thompson believes in his own modest way that he has real winning chances in the 4,000-mile two-stage marathon which sets sail from La Rochelle on 22 September and he is not alone in that estimation. Mark Turner, taking a break from a dangerous sports holiday in the Alps, had this to say about Thompson. "He's absolutely got the potential to win - he's a tough nut and he can stay on deck steering for days and days and days and he's a speed freak. The only questions are whether he can manage the sleep and the possibility that he might get undone by something quirky on the boat." Thompson, aged 39, is a softly spoken and thoughtful sailor who stands 6ft 5" tall and who has spent most of his time recently as a watch captain and specialist helmsman on Steve Fossett's 125ft maxi-cat, PlayStation. Yet despite his size and the sudden contrast of the Mini, Thompson has taken to his powerful 21ft ocean racer with ease. He says he is amazed how big his radical boat feels on deck with its large cockpit and wide stern, even if with his large frame getting in and out of the hatch requires the skills of an Indian rope trickster. He is impressed not just with the speed and strength of the class but also with how much fun the boats are to drive, even for hours on end. Thompson's results since first sailing the boat just six months ago have been stunning. First place in