It was a tale of two races for Alex Thomson and Mike Golding on the Transat Jacques Vabre (TJV) which concluded in Costa Rica last weekend.
For Gosport-based Thomson, the trans-Atlantic race from Le Havre marked a return to the podium after what has been a fairly torrid few years.
His second-placed finish, aboard Hugo Boss with veteran Spanish co-skipper Guillermo Altadill, will allow him to move on from past episodes – including the pre-2008 Vendee Globe collision and having to withdraw from the Barcelona World Race with appendicitis, which was followed by the birth of his son Oscar with a heart defect.
Warsash’s Golding, meanwhile, completed his record seventh consecutive TJV in ninth place, with Gamesa the last of the Open 60s to survive the race.
Hampered by the loss of high-res weather files due to a broadband failure, a strategic decision to go south on the approach to the Caribbean saw Golding and co-skipper Bruno Dubois give away ground they were unable to claw back.
In contrast, Thomson’s decisive decision was to say north – a route which protected Hugo Boss from some of the worst boat-breaking depressions which swept over the fleet mid-Atlantic.
And perhaps his luck has changed, with Hugo Boss surviving the second such cold front which took out two of the frontrunners.
‘There was massive shift,’ said Thomson.
‘It went from true southerly to a true westerly in 10 seconds.
‘If you didn’t get to the helm in time, because most people where on pilot, you would have crash tacked.
‘Fortunately, it didn’t happen to us.’
Hugo Boss was not entirely unscathed, however, suffering broken lazyjacks, one broken batten and a rip in the mainsail – damage that Thomson reckons cost them 20-30 miles in downtime against eventual winner Virbac Paprec 3.
Even so, the decision to stay north of the fleet was not taken lightly.
‘It was quite tough – to take the west option when everyone was going south towards the high,’ said Thomson.
‘I was saying ‘‘Guillermo, we have to go’’.
‘And Guillermo was going ‘‘we don’t want to go on our own’’.
‘So it was quite nice that Virbac went with us.
‘It made you feel like you were not on a wing and a prayer.
‘We could have committed to that option much earlier and then we might have had a chance to win, but then we would really have been on our own and we didn’t want to do that.’
Having been as high as third at the midway point of the race, Golding was understandably disappointed with his result.
‘My overriding feeling now is one of relief – it has been a very long and tough race,’ he said.
‘We are disappointed, of course, with the result, which is not what we would have wanted.
‘But the reality is that we made a choice in the Atlantic to go south round an area of light.
‘It was not the right way to go. But you make your choices. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. On this occasion they didn’t work.’
n Both Thomson and Golding, this time singlehanded, will be on the start line of the Transat B to B, from St Barts to Lorient, on December 5.