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Video: Alex Thomson’s Mast Walk

Living Life on the Edge: Professional sailor Alex Thomson lives life one calculated risk at a time.

May 16, 2014
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Mast Walk

There are practical reasons to climb to the top of a mast, like fixing a halyard or inspecting rigging. Climbing to the top to jump off while underway isn’t one of them, but that’s what professional sailor Alex Thomson did.

Immortalized in a stomach-churning video that shows the sailboat’s port rail dipping into the water, Thomson — donning a tailored Hugo Boss suit — throws himself onto the mast and sprints to the top while dodging and scurrying over the rigging. Then he pauses at the top of the nearly 100-foot mast before leaping into the ocean below.

“Thanks to adrenaline, it’s fine until you get to the top, and then you think, ‘Oh [expletive], now I have to jump,’” says Thomson. “Persuading yourself to jump is hard, but you’ve passed the point of no return.”

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Thomson says the idea for this stunt came to him during last year’s Vendee Globe around-the-world race.

“There were a couple of incidents when the boat got caught in wind and tipped over and I thought to myself, ‘If I had to fix something on the mast, now would be a good time, because I could just run up it.’”

While keyboard warriors are chastising the daredevil online for the stunt, Thomson maintains it was safe, although he encourages viewers not to try this at home: “Professional sailors are in the business of understanding and reducing risk.” At least for Thomson, business was good this time.

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