Alex Thomson was today the first IMOCA skipper to cross the finish line in the Route du Rhum, one of the most famous races in offshore sailing.
The HUGO BOSS skipper crossed the line at Pointe-à Pitre, Guadeloupe after just 11 days, 23 hours, 10 minutes and 58 seconds, setting a new IMOCA race record.
After leading for the vast majority of the race, 50nm from the finish line Thomson ran aground on Guadeloupe Island and was forced to utilise his engine to manoeuvre to safety.
Despite re-commencing the race and crossing the finish line before any other IMOCA boat, he was handed a 24 hour penalty, which will most likely strip him of the title.
Guadeloupe – British sailor Alex Thomson was today the first IMOCA skipper to conquer the Route du Rhum: Destination Guadeloupe, one of the most demanding races in the solo offshore sailing calendar.
After 11 days, 23 hours, 10 minutes and 58 seconds, Thomson completed the 3,542 nautical mile transatlantic race, crossing the finish line at Pointe-à Pitre, Guadeloupe in the Caribbean to a lively reception from spectators.
Having begun the non-stop, unassisted solo race in Saint Malo on November 4th, Thomson led the 20-strong IMOCA fleet for the vast majority of the race. The HUGO BOSS skipper was forced to battle his way through a brutal storm with winds of up to 50 knots and 8m waves in what was his first entry into the Route du Rhum.
Around 50nm from the finish line, Thomson found himself almost 200nm in front of his closest competitor and on course to beat the existing IMOCA race record. However, a failure in the skipper’s shock wrist band – which he uses to wake himself after short spells of sleep – caused him to oversleep. Thomson awoke to find the boat grounded at the north end of Grande Terre on La Pointe à Claude, with no option but to utilise his engine to rescue both himself and the boat from a potentially life threating situation. Having informed the Race Committee of the incident, Thomson re-commenced the race and went on to finish in first place.
Upon crossing the finish line today, however, the skipper was notified of a 24 hour penalty, handed down by the Race International Jury, which will almost certainly strip the team of its first place victory.
“I wanted to attack from the outset and lead from the front, and that’s what I was able to do” he said. “The storms were ferocious and the conditions were brutal but I was able to overcome that and I’m incredibly proud of the way I raced and the way HUGO BOSS performed.
“Of course, this is a bitter pill to swallow but it’s something we learn from. I am obviously devastated but there are a lot of positives to take away from this. We were quite clearly the fastest boat in the fleet, we reached a new top speed for HUGO BOSS of 38.5knots and, from the very start, I felt that I sailed a great race. Regardless of the penalty that has been handed to us, I’m proud of our team and the way that we were able to dominate”.
Stewart Hosford, CEO of Alex Thomson Racing, said: “As a team, we’re incredibly proud of Alex and the seamanship he showed in getting the boat to safety. Offshore races like this one are brutal and Alex fought tirelessly to get to the position he was in.
“As a team, we believe that 24 hours was an exceptionally harsh penalty given that Alex acted to save the vessel and his own life, and he did not gain any competitive advantage from the grounding. However the International Jury has made its decision”.
The Route du Rhum marked Thomson’s final race onboard the current HUGO BOSS boat. In summer 2019 he will unveil a new multi-million pound race yacht on which he hopes to win the 2020 Vendée Globe, ‘the Everest of sailing’.