It’s no surprise Thomson likes a little air. He is, after all, a professional sailor – one of the world’s finest, with a penchant for the toughest races the sport can offer. The 42-year-old was the youngest skipper to win a round-the-world race, and one of his first single-handed expeditions saw him notch up the fastest solo crossing of the Atlantic. To generate publicity for his sport, he has dived into the ocean from ten meters (over 30 ft.) up on the mast of a full-powered race yacht, dressed in a dark suit of which James Bond would approve (the video of the “mast walk” has had more than two million YouTube views), and he recently took to a kiteboard for a not dissimilar stunt, using a pull from a race yacht to fly at a height of 85 meters (approx. 280 ft.) through the air.
Such extracurricular exploits aside, Thomson came third in the 2013 Vendée Globe regatta. The world’s most grueling solo yacht race challenges its competitors to sail some 23,000 miles around the world – nonstop and single-handed. For days and nights on end in the Southern Ocean, Thomson faced down icebergs, storms, and loneliness, riding 15-meter-high (50 ft.) waves at 70 km/h (over 40 mph). In between times he also had to get some shut-eye, sleeping 20–40 minutes every four to five hours to prevent total exhaustion and the risk of making a potentially fatal mistake.