Thomson scraps to stay in Vendee hunt

Alex Thomson
Alex Thomson
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Alex Thomson has stayed in the Vendee Globe game despite attrition continuing to deplete the round-the-world fleet, and a couple of dramas of his own.

This week saw two further competitors drop out, taking the casualty rate up to six from the 20 who started the solo marathon just 13 days ago.

Thomson, however, who’s had more than his fair share of grief at sea over the years, is nicely tucked in among the leaders as they look to plug in to the westerlies which will speed them on their way through the Southern Ocean.

At one point, Thomson’s Open 60 Hugo Boss was up to third place after a rapid transit of the doldrums, amid a group of five yachts who are effectively neck-and-neck and hard on the heels of race leader Armel Le Cleac’h (Banque Populaire).

And the Gosport racer might feel he’s had his scare for this trip, having avoided potential disaster when part of his steering gear was smashed last weekend.

The hydrogenerator mounted Hugo Boss’ transom – used to top up the batteries – ripped off its mounting and whipped up on its safety strop to smash the tie bar which connects the twin rudders.

Thomson quickly got the boat back under control and was able to repair the carbon fibre tube and hydrogenerator bracket without losing too much ground to the competition.

‘It’s a bit rough and ready as a repair – Alex style!,’ he reported on Thursday. ‘I had a bit of sleep last night but I just need to get this hydro fixed so I can get back into a better routine and focus back on both my sleeping and my sailing.’

The second drama involving Thomson came after he protested several other yachts for ignoring regulations in the Finisterre Traffic Separation Scheme earlier in the race. International rules require any vessel crossing separation zones to do so at right angles, something a number of Vendee competitors failed to do.

The race’s protest committee imposed various time penalties on the seven deemed to have infringed the regulations, including Warsash veteran Mike Golding who had to heave to for 30 minutes. He at least made some ground on his near rivals, Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) and Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud), who each had two-hour penalties.

Thomson, who had gybed to cross the separation zones, losing ground in the process, came in for some stick on the French Vendee Globe website, but was defended by the race committee.

Golding, meanwhile, this week crossed the equator for the 22nd time in his sailing career, an extraordinary record.

‘Twenty two is a quite a lot,’ he said. ‘I don’t think it’s that important but it shows how lucky I am.’

And he added: ‘For me it is good, all going to plan so far.

‘It is interesting to see the number of boats which have already pulled out with technical problems, especially considering we are not even in the south yet.

‘You would like to think the attrition rate will not be as high in the south, but if it is you could be looking at just seven or eight finishers.’