Offshore

Hugo Boss hits object at high speed

British skipper Alex Thomson, whose race so far has been one of the highlights of the Vendée Globe solo round the world race has reported that he has hit an unidentified object at high speed during Sunday night, damaging one rudder mechanism and a hydrogenerator on his IMOCA Open 60 Hugo Boss. after reaching third place Saturday, Thomson dropped to fifth place, 160 miles behind the leader Francois Gabart this morning, and is back making 18-19 kts after 24 hours of enforced slow down whilst he effected the rudder repairs. He reports that he is now down to one working hydrogenrator – a primary source for generating electrical power.

Thomson reported this morning:

"Night before last (December 9th) at 22:20 GMT I hit something in the water while travelling at 22 knots. I was at the navigation table at the time and was sailing on port gybe with solent/J2 and 2 reefs in the mainsail in 28 knots of wind. I heard a loud bang forward of where I was which i think must have been something hitting either the keel or the daggerboard. I heard a series of softer bangs as whatever I hit bumped along under the hull and a final big bang as it hit the rudder and hydro generator.

By the time I got to the companionway hatch the rudder was in the air and the hydro generator was dragging in the water. The boat broached and went head to wind. I immediately rolled the J2 away and stopped the boat in a big sea.

On inspection the starboard rudder fuse had broken and the rudder had lifted with minor damage. The hydro generator blade was damaged and one of brackets was in pieces and eventually lost overboard. The rudder tie bar (the previously unbroken one) was also smashed in 3 pieces.

I set to work swapping tie bars to get the leeward rudder operational so I could steer safely in the right direction. The waves were very big and were coming up and over the transom and mainsheet traveller and were hitting the rudder blade while lifted. Both rudder cassettes sustained some damage while doing this and it was pretty dangerous hanging off the transom while being completely submerged by the waves.

Eventually I got the working rudder connected and started sailing again with the port rudder in the air. I contacted the team and started affecting a repair to the tie bar. I have been unable to sail at 100% while managing this repair. The repair has been done in a similar way to the previous tie bar but it has been more difficult and time consuming as the breaks were not clean and the conditions to affect a repair less forgiving. I will not be able to repair the cassette damage until it is dry on deck but the team feel that these repairs are not critical right now

I expect to have both rudders working by this morning.

I lifted the starboard daggerboard as far as possible and can see no damage. The keel fin on this boat is made from solid steel so any damagethere should be cosmetic. It is impossible to inspect the outside of the hull between the daggerboard and the rudder but the inner skin looks fine.

I am gutted to have lost so many miles but fortunate that the known damage is repairable and that i am able to continue on my way.

Longer term I am now down to only one hydro generator which means in the current conditions I will have to shuteverything down into power saving mode and work hard to save power to be able to make the finish. This literally means everything off, computer, phone, GPS, etc otherwise I have no chance of making the finish."

His team comment:
“The hydro generators are the primary power supply on board and with only one of them working Alex now has to conserve his power by limiting the use of electronics on board. This will unfortunately mean a reduction in his communications, including communication with family back at home. The remaining hydro is working but only usable on one tack and will charge the batteries when the conditions allow, but it will restrict the amount of power available.”

Vendee Globe
11 December 2012 7:33 GMT


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