Solo sailor heads off this Sunday
AS Australia's most watched sailor of recent times, Jessica Watson, gets closer to the end of her epic journey, the Whitsundays' own Ian Thomson prepares to start his own.
Watson, 16, is due home from her solo round the world journey in the next couple of weeks while Thomson is hoping to depart Airlie Beach this Sunday to get his solo voyage around Australia underway.
Thomson is planning to set off from in front of the Whitsunday Sailing Club at about 10am and is hoping to have a big crowd there to bid him farewell.
If all goes to plan, Thomson, aboard Save Our Seas (SOS) Ocean Racing, will sail around Australia, solo and unassisted, in about 50 days, setting a world record in the process.
He hopes to use the publicity gained from his record attempt as a platform to raise awareness of the damage plastic bags are doing to the marine environment, which he is passionate about.
Sailing a custom-designed and built Welbourn 12m. Thomson's passage is sure to be quick and it'll have to be if he hopes to smash the current record of 68d:8h:30m, held by the only person to have achieved the feat, David Beard from Brisbane.
The first day of sailing will be vitally important for Thomson as he endeavours to sail the 65nm between him and the perimeter of the Great Barrier Reef.
Thomson is hoping to get outside the Reef by 5pm to set up for an evening sail on the open ocean.
As he leaves, Thomson will be surrounded by the fleet of boats from Islandive, where he works as a skipper.
All of the company's boats are due in port on Sunday and they will rally around him to send him off.
Also occupying the water will be members of the Whitsunday Sailing Club's fleet as they take part in the Shute Harbour Slipway Mini Series.
For Thomson's part, he is glad the preparation for his long voyage is drawing close to an end so that he can concentrate on doing what he does best – sailing the boat.
“It is really exciting now to be so close,” Thomson said.
“I just want to go and get down to the sailing part.
“I'm a bit over the preparation side of things and just want to go sailing and enjoy this beautiful craft once again.
“In the Brisbane to Gladstone, it sailed so well and I had a grin from ear to ear so after 50 days I wonder if that grin is still as big.”
For those seeking a view of the official start of Thomson's campaign from land, the best bet will be the balcony of the Whitsunday Sailing Club as the World Sailing Speed Record Council official start line will include the flagstaff on the balcony.