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Alex Thomson and co-skipper retire from Transat Jacques Vabre

by Andy Corridan 4 Nov 10:13 GMT 4 November 2019
Alex Thomson and his co-skipper - fellow Briton Neal McDonald - departed from Le Havre - Transat Jacques Vabre 2019 © Alex Thomson Racing

Britain's Alex Thomson and his co-skipper Neal McDonald have been forced to retire from the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre, the team's debut race onboard the new HUGO BOSS boat.

At 09:37 GMT yesterday (Sunday) morning, while sailing at approximately 25 knots, Thomson and McDonald, onboard the HUGO BOSS IMOCA 60 boat, hit a submerged unidentified object in the water. Both skippers escaped without major injuries however the boat sustained damage to its keel, marking the end of the race for the British sailing team.

A statement issued by Alex Thomson Racing at 11:50am Sunday GMT read:

    This morning (Sunday 3rd November 2019) at around 9:37am UK time, while Alex Thomson and Neal McDonald were sailing at around 25 knots onboard HUGO BOSS, they hit something in the water. At this stage, it is not clear what they hit.

    Following the incident, Alex and Neal stopped the boat and carried out an inspection to assess the damage sustained. It became apparent that the keel is now only attached by the hydraulic ram.

    Due to the damage sustained to the boat, the decision has been made that Alex and Neal will not continue on in the race. The Alex Thomson Racing team is now working to assist the skippers to bring the boat to the nearest port.

    Both Alex and Neal are currently safe inside the boat and did not sustain any major injuries.

Speaking from onboard the boat after the incident, Thomson said: "This morning, Neal and I were both awake, going about 25 knots, when we hit something in the water. I was stood inside the cockpit just behind the pedestal. Neal was just behind the cockpit door.

"We're not sure what we hit but it was something big under the water, which must have been submerged to have hit our keel and physically stop the boat at 25 knots. The keel sustained a lot of damage and it was left attached only by the hydraulic ram.

"Neal and I are both physically OK. No major injuries, just some bruises. We were very lucky.

"If you were to get into your car, close your eyes, and drive at 40 miles an hour into a brick wall...that's what it felt like!"

Since the incident occurred, the skippers - with guidance from their technical team shore-side - have been working around the clock to stabilise the keel in order to allow them to sail safely, without assistance, to the nearest port.

Ross Daniel, Technical Director, said: "After many hours of trying to stabilise the keel, Alex and Neal are understandably very tired and so we have made the decision that they should take some rest. Together, we will re-assess the situation in the morning. Both skippers are safe on board, the boat is stable, and they are in no immediate danger.

"Once the keel is stabilised, our best option looks to be to sail slowly and safely to the Canary Islands however we will make that decision tomorrow. Right now, Alex and Neal are in no immediate danger, and we are under no time constraints because the boat is currently in light winds and a slight sea state, and this is likely to continue due to the high pressures over the Azores. The boat is currently sailing in a north westerly direction, which it will continue to do throughout the night".

The incident occurred on what was day seven of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre, the world's longest and toughest double-handed transatlantic race which takes skippers, in their pairs, on a 4,350 mile journey from Le Havre, France to Salvador, Brazil. When the HUGO BOSS boat hit the unknown object, Thomson and McDonald were over a third of the way into the race, and were situated around 380 miles north west of the Canary Islands.

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