Gaëtan Thomas is making history as the first Belgian Skipper to lead a team around the world in the Clipper Race.
The 29 year old from Brussels, Belgium has always had a strong connection with the ocean, having sailed as an infant with his family and at 16, left school to begin working on board yachts where he has been training and racing as mate and Skipper ever since.
He says: "I am proud to be able to represent the colours of my country around the world. As a young lad I never thought about being the first Belgian to do anything, but now it is a great feeling to represent your country colours and spread the word to hopefully help promote sailing in Belgium."
With more than 50,000 nautical miles under his belt, Gaëtan has sailed across the Atlantic Ocean five times, three times solo, much of Europe and the Caribbean.
Gaëtan adds: "Sailing around the world is just one of the beautiful aspects of the Clipper Race. I am proud to lead the team and keep the crew and boat racing safely and effectively all the way, that is my goal. Although as a competitor of course I like to go fast too!"
Motivated and competitive, Gaëtan has previously raced solo across the Atlantic, with his longest solo time at sea being 37 days. Inspired by the father figure of French offshore racing, Eric Tabarly, Gaëtan’s life ambition is to one day compete in the professional sailing race, the Vendee Globe.
As well as being adept at solo-sailing, Gaëtan is aware of what it takes to work in a team environment as he explains: "I love sport and I will be involved in all aspects of racing, including being first to help when the team get tired, and completing the mundane tasks at sea. That’s how you get respect as a leader in my opinion."
Recalling a previous moment he credits for shaping his leadership style, Gaëtan offers: "Years ago, I was working in a kitchen as a chef. On my first day I asked to speak to the boss so was looking around asking the other chefs. It turned out he was actually the guy washing the dishes. It taught me a great lesson and since that day I always strive to be that kind of leader."
Gaëtan’s adventurous nature extends far beyond sailing and when he isn’t at the helm of a yacht, enjoys mountaineering, motor biking and mixed martial arts, which he says helps with discipline and conditioning for strength both physically and mentally on dry land and at sea.