Alex Thomson needed seven hours of handiwork with his grinder to repair his hydro generator, which had ripped off the back of the boat,
breaking the starboard tie bar which connected the starboard rudder, while he was running downwind at 18 knots under spinnaker. He was on port tack so the starboard rudder was not connected to anything and the boat would wipe out. Between 12 and 12.30 pm on Saturday, Hugo Boss was almost stationary as Thomson cannibalised his port rudder bar and started sailing again.
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Thompson explains: “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 (generator) 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.”
“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,” Thomson said. “Cliff (Nicholson) our composite engineer is a genius problem solver and he came up with a plan with Ross (Daniel) and (Simon) Clarkey 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 seven hours work all in plus some tidy up time. I was pretty knackered but pleased. It has been an amazing team effort.”
The fix certainly seemed to work as Thomson, previously better known for his speed than his handiwork, had the best 24 hour speed times in the fleet on Sunday, beating the five new boats in front of them. Thomson can now focus on navigating a path through the Doldrums which are further north than usual. The lead boat should reach them in the next 24 hours.
Thomson revealed that he still has some more repairs to make to fix his starboard hydrogenerator that had ripped off and broken the tie bar that connects to the starboard rudder.
“The repair seems to be fine, we still have to repair the hydrogenerator bracket,” he said. “I might make start on that today if I can make some progress thought the Doldrums.”
Thomson, was still in sixth place this morning, keeping pace with the lead group and 123 miles from Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) at the front.
19 November 2012 9:06 GMT