British sailor Alex Thomson continues to lead in what has already been a brutal 11th edition of the Route du Rhum, a 3,542 nautical mile solo sailing race.
After three days at sea, well over a quarter of the 123 skippers who began the race in Saint Malo on Sunday (November 4) have already been forced to retire, take shelter or make vital repairs.
A brutal Atlantic low pressure system has torn the fleet apart with many of the starting 20 IMOCAs already experiencing technical issues or breakages.
Thomson however, onboard HUGO BOSS, has continued to lead the class, profiting from the pursuit of a more northerly course than that taken by his closest rivals.
The British skipper currently sits 83nm ahead of France’s Paul Meilhat onboard SMA in second and 112nm in front of veteran Vincent Riou on PRB in third. But while Thomson leads the pack, it’s been far from plain sailing for the skipper:
“It was a tough night for me. In the maximum winds of that storm I saw gusts of 50 knots and unfortunately part of my mainsail support structure broke. It could have been a lot worse but it certainly cost me a lot of miles.
“I’m feeling good, although tired. I can’t complain too much. The conditions are rough and HUGO BOSS took a bit of hammering so in some ways I’m thankful just to be in the race still. I’ve heard about Banque Populaire and I see quite a few of the IMOCAs have retired so I thank myself lucky really, I guess.
“Right now I can only get weather information and a satellite connection on starboard tack not on port, which is frustrating, particularly when you don’t know what else is happening. But I’m still in the race, and I’m still leading.
“The aim now is just to get south of the high pressure and into the trade winds, and the first person to do so will make a gain, there’s no doubt about that. There’s a strong possibility that some of us will get trapped or stuck in the high pressure.
“I’m confident that, if I lose the miles, I’ll have a chance at being able to get them back. Having completed the last Vendée Globe and sailed over 50,000 nautical miles on this boat, I have full confidence in its structure and ability to handle conditions as tough as these.
“Right now, I’m just trying to think about getting past this ridge, getting south, trying to sort my problems out, and slowly getting back to 100% operation again”.
This is the first time Thomson has competed in La Route du Rhum: Destination Guadeloupe, which will finish in Pointe-à Pitre, Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. A win would position the skipper as a firm favourite heading into the iconic solo, round the world Vendée Globe race in 2020.