BRITISH skipper Alex Thomson has been awarded the prestigious French National Order of Merit in recognition of his services to the sport of sailing during a career spanning more than 20 years to date.

Thomson was given the rank of Knight (‘Chevalier’) of the National Order of Merit which was introduced in 1963 by President Charles de Gaulle to honour individuals from all fields of activity for distinguished civil and military achievements.

At 45, Thomson is well below the average age of admission to the prestigious group of awardees and is among just a handful of non-French sailors to have ever been presented the honour by the French state.