Sadly the news is not getting any better from the Hugo Boss team in France. It is beginning to look as though there will be little chance for Alex to rejoin the race. What a terrible shame...
At 05h00 this morning Alex Thomson arrived back where he had started the Vendee Globe some 61 hours previously . The team had to wait until 10h30 for the tide to enter the canal into Les Sables d'Olonne. By 14h00 the mast was taken out and at 15h30 HUGO BOSS was lifted from the water.
Waiting for the arrival were the Alex Thomson Racing shore team, Paolo Manganelli, from Gurit who was responsible for the structural design of HUGO BOSS and Pascal Finot from Finot Conq, the boats' designer.
The true extent of the damage could not be assessed until the boat was lifted out of the water. Harry McGougan, Alex Thomson Racing's Operations Director explained what they saw when the boat was lifted. "There is a transverse crack that runs through the outer and inner skin of the boat. Having now lifted the boat out of the water we can see the underneath of the boat and the full extent of the damage. The crack extends 5 metres to almost the centreline. The unidirectional fibres that make up the outside layer of the boat have peeled off from the start of the crack to the back of the boat."
To repair HUGO BOSS before next Wednesday's restart deadline McGougan explained what the team need to achieve. "In the time scale available to us to restart the race we would have to do a full structural survey, put together a full repair plan and then put a team together the size of which we had for the repair three weeks ago." A decision will be made tomorrow on the best way forward.
"At the moment there is no definite reason why this has happened but there is a strong possibility that the boat has hit something ," concluded McGougan.
Paolo Manganelli's (structural engineer) initial thoughts on the cause of the crack after a visual inspection of the boat were the same. " It's a bit too early to say very much right now, but we are not ruling out a collision with a submerged object."
Thomson was visibly upset when he stepped ashore this morning. "The team went through so much over the last 3 weeks to get the boat to the start line, so for this to happen is very harsh," said Alex.
Explaining the sequence of events that led up to the discovery of the cracked hull. "I was sailing in about 25knots of breeze, the front had gone through and I had tacked and was heading south on a beam reach. I couldn't fully power up as the sea state was so bad, the boat was slamming through the waves. I heard a thud but couldn't see anything visible to think I had hit something."
"The previous day I had been on deck and gone below to find 1,500 litres of water sloshing around. The windward ballast tank was leaking, so when I saw more water down below I immediately thought there was another leak in the other ballast tank."
"As I finished bailing out again, (this time only about 20 litres) I saw water was squirting through the hull like a small fountain from a crack in the hull."
"The water intake was completely manageable, I was only using the pumps to clear the water every 3 hours, so I never felt we were in any real danger," explained Alex.
"It's gutting, I feel very sad not only for me, but also my sponsors and the team. These things happen in sailing, you just have to pick yourself up and move forward." concluded Thomson