Alex still closing in on the leading boats despite major repairs onboard
Alex Thomson yesterday faced his toughest challenge in the eight days of racing so far in this 2012/2013 Vendee Globe, when his hydro generator broke, in turn damaging the starboard tie bar of his rudder.
The breakage happened at 1100 on Sat whilst travelling at close to 20 knots and he was unable to steer the boat causing HUGO BOSS to ‘wipeout’.
Explaining the breakage, Alex said: “I was low on battery juice so I popped the hydro down and went below to see how many amps were going in. At the time I was averaging about 18 knots and I heard a strange noise so went to the door and I could see the hydro vibrating very severely and getting worse. I realised it was going to break and rushed to pull it up but before I got there it ripped off the back of the boat and did a cartwheel and smashed the starboard tie bar. I was on port tack so the starboard rudder was not connected to anything and I knew instantly that the boat would wipe out. It did but I managed to get the boat flat and got downwind to roll up the A3 spinnaker keeping the port rudder in the water doing all the steering.”
Alex was forced to stop HUGO BOSS for an hour with big waves smashing into the back of the boat to enable him to change over the bars and get the starboard rudder steering again, allowing him to start sailing again.
Together with the onshore team back in the UK, the focus of the last 24 hours has been on the repairs to enable him to continue safely:
“The bar is a very thin carbon tube about 3m long which was broken in two places, and we do not carry a spare unfortunately,” explained Alex. “Cliff our composite engineer is a genius problem solver and he came up with a plan with Ross and Clarke which would splint the breaks using carbon strips. I firstly had to cut the strips with the grinder with a diamond cutting blade I have onboard. I was not looking forward to doing it because literally everything would be covered in carbon dust. I cleared the cockpit and got to work all while averaging 19 knots of boat speed. I managed to do it without cutting a finger off or cutting through the cockpit floor. Once I had finished I was covered in silver paint and back carbon dust and the cockpit looked like Cliff’s workshop! The repair sure ain’t pretty but it should be functional and was about 7 hours work all in plus some tidy up time. I was pretty knackered but pleased. It has been an amazing team effort.”
Whilst the repair to the tie bar is complete, Alex still aims to repair the hydrogenerator in the next few days as it is the primary power source onboard HUGO BOSS. Alex said “I need the hydro back in action as I will not have enough diesel to make it round the world without it”
“The response of both Alex as well as the entire team in this situation has been remarkable,” said Managing Director Stewart Hosford. “Everyone has worked together efficiently under a high pressure situation to ensure not only the safety of Alex but his continuation in this race. It has been a very successful team effort and hopefully Alex can turn his concentration back to the race now.”
However despite the setback, Alex still managed to achieve the best 24 hour run of the fleet during this period, averaging 17.95 knots and making 430.8 Nm.
Alex is currently the leading British sailor, sitting in 6th place in the race and holding onto the lead group “I’m just playing my own game and really I shouldn’t be as fast as them but somehow I seem to be, things are going right. I’ve got some great sails and I seem to be going in the right direction,” said Alex.
Sunday 18th November
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