Alex Thomson is facing a race against time to keep his Vendée Globe dream alive after suffering structural damage to his boat Hugo Boss over the weekend and slowing to carry out repairs.
The Briton, who was approximately 800 miles east of Rio de Janeiro in the South Atlantic ocean when he discovered the problem, had by Sunday night fallen over 200nm behind the leaders.
However, Thomson’s team say they are “confident” the 46 year-old will be able to fix the issue and get back in the race.
“Alex has now put the boat into a safe position to manage the sea state in order to reduce movement onboard while he carries out the repair,” Ross Daniel, technical director at Alex Thomson Racing, said. “He has all the necessary materials onboard, a detailed plan to follow, and a team of world class engineers advising him. We are therefore confident in his ability to complete the repair.
4/5 Alex is safe and well onboard, and in regular dialogue with the team. The @VendeeGlobeENG race organisation has been notified and is being kept well informed.
— Alex Thomson Racing (@ATRacing99) November 22, 2020
“Our objective is to carry out the necessary repair swiftly and effectively, in order to minimise the miles lost and resume racing again. A further update will follow from the team in due course”.
Thomson said on Sunday he was trying not to let his emotions get the better of him. “It’s really humid, it’s pretty hard up there (in the bow). But we carry quite a lot of materials – under-water resin, glues that can deal with humid conditions - so the materials can deal with it quite well. I imagine a lot of teams don’t carry as much as we do.
“I’m in a rhythm now so I’ll keep going for as long as I can. It’s quite an intricate job so I can’t rush it and I need to make sure it’s right.
“I’m disappointed obviously but this is the Vendée Globe. This is what it entails. You’ve got to be able to deal with this stuff. This is why we carry these materials and tools and why we’re generally very good at being able to deal with these things.
“Normally I feel angry and sad and emotional but I don’t this time. I just need to get on with it. I’m sure at some point the emotions may go the other way but, for now, there is only one thing to do, and that is to get the job done as best as I possibly can. I will do whatever it takes to stay in the race.”
Thomson discovered damage to a longitudinal beam at the front of the boat at around 1900 UTC on Saturday night. It is unclear what caused the damage.
After reporting the problem and slowing the boat, he slept while his team worked through the night to put a repair plan together.
The development brought messages of support from Thomson’s fellow competitors.
Charlie Dalin, now lying second on Apivia just behind Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut, told the official Vendee Globe website: “I hope it's not too bad and the extent of the damage is limited. Above all, I hope that this does not mean the end of the Vendée Globe for him. We have a great race with him, and this trio we are in is very stimulating ”.
Pip Hare, one of three British women competing in this Vendée, tweeted: “Wishing @ATRacing99 all the best of luck in dealing with whatever problem he has. We may be sailing solo, but we’re all together in wishing him a safe and speedy return to the race.”
Thomson is hoping to become the first non-Frenchman to win sailing’s greatest solo offshore race, having finished third and second in the last two editions,
He had just told The Sunday Telegraph how confident he was feeling after surviving an “intense” opening fortnight which saw the fleet battered by 50 knot winds, adding that he felt for French rival Jeremie Beyou who had to sail 600 miles back to Les Sables d'Olonne after suffering damage to his boat Charal. “It can happen to anybody,” Thomson said. “That's the problem with this race.”