NEWS UPDATE Monday 23:00 hrs (UK)
Following the removal of the damaged keel early Monday, the decision has been made that the safest course of action is for the skippers to sail to the Cape Verde Islands, around 800nm away from HUGO BOSS’ current location.
Alex and Neal are currently sailing at up to 7 knots in light winds.
They will continue to sail cautiously in a south easterly direction to the Verde Islands. With the current weather conditions, we estimate that the journey will take around five days.
The technical team is preparing to meet HUGO BOSS in the coming days, in order to offer assistance to Alex and Neal in bringing the boat safely into port.
After many hours of trying to stabilise the keel, Alex Thomson and Neal McDonald took some rest over Sunday night.
In the early hours of Monday morning the skippers resumed their attempts to stabilise the keel.
Despite their very best efforts, it became clear that keeping the keel attached would put the boat at great risk. With the keel attached only by the hydraulic ram, and in an unstable position, there was a serious risk of significant damage to the hull.
They did everything that they could to preserve the keel but collectively determined that it was far too dangerous to keep it in place.
Therefore, with guidance from our team shore-side, Alex and Neal set about cutting the hydraulic ram to free the keel from the boat.
After many hours, they were successful in their efforts and the keel is now no longer attached to the boat.
Alex and Neal have filled the ballast tanks onboard and fully extended the foils in order to keep the boat as stable as possible.
They are currently in light winds and a slight sea state, and we are comfortable that there is no immediate risk to the boat or the skippers.
The next step is for us to put together the best possible strategy to bring the boat slowly and safely to port. We are currently exploring various options and will provide an update in due course.
Ross Daniel, Technical Director at Alex Thomson Racing, described the situation . . .
Right now, Alex and Neal are in no immediate danger, and we are under no time constraints because the boat is currently in light winds and a slight sea state, and this is likely to continue due to the high pressure over the Azores.
The boat is currently sailing in a north westerly direction, which it will continue to do throughout the night.
Speaking from onboard the boat after the incident, Thomson said:
“This morning, Neal and I were both awake, going about 25 knots, when we hit something in the water. I was stood inside the cockpit just behind the pedestal. Neal was just behind the cockpit door.”
“We’re not sure what we hit but it was something big under the water, which must have been submerged to have hit our keel and physically stop the boat at 25 knots. The keel sustained a lot of damage and it was left attached only by the hydraulic ram.”
“Neal and I are both physically OK. No major injuries, just some bruises. We were very lucky.”
“If you were to get into your car, close your eyes, and drive at 40 miles an hour into a brick wall…that’s what it felt like!”
The incident occurred on what was day seven of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre, which takes skippers, in their pairs, on a 4,350 mile journey from Le Havre, France to Salvador, Brazil.
When the HUGO BOSS boat hit the unknown object, Thomson and McDonald were over a third of the way into the race, and were situated around 380 miles north west of the Canary Islands.