After yesterday’s extraordinary destruction that forced five boats to double back to Newport, Rhode Island to effect appendage repairs, overnight British skipper Alex Thomson and his new steed Hugo Boss have pulled into the lead of the New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode.
“I think I have just got a quick boat!” explained Thomson of how he had managed this in last night’s 20 knot conditions. “She’s a bit narrower than the other foilers and a bit lighter and I think that is what did it. It was rather pleasant apart from the amount of water which comes over the boat!”
During his 14 year tenure in the IMOCA class, Thomson has had his fair share of disaster so it came as huge relief that Hugo Boss passed through yesterday’s waterborne minefield without damage.
“I wish I’d had a bit of wood to touch,” Thomson admitted this morning. “I had four collisions myself. I had two collisions with the foil, one of which was very very hard, but I couldn’t see any damage. Then I hit something relatively softly with the keel and I had two other hits, but my kick-up rudder system worked very well. I was extremely worried and I am very happy to have got out of that. Every boat which turned back I saw them go past. I am very sorry for them. It is very harsh after so much preparation and work.”
Jérémie Beyou, skipper of second-placed foil-born Maître CoQ, this morning echoed these sentiments: “I stopped foiling when everyone hit the UFOs. I freaked out, I put it back out later. You have to hang on in these situations – I spent the day and the evening on the deck. It all went well for me.”
Yesterday the frontrunners crossed the continental shelf and are now out into the North Atlantic proper. While there is an area of high pressure directly ahead of the boats at present, this is forecast to move south over the course of today, causing the wind to veer into the west-southwest and the boats to start ‘VMG running’ (ie downwind).
“We gybe tomorrow morning and then we head into the depression and try and get across it before we get hammered,” continued Thomson of what lies ahead. “There is a lot of wind coming, but hopefully I’ll be ahead of that.”
Meanwhile Thomson is reminding himself of what it is like to be leading. “It is great to be in front but I am very conscious of the boats and guys that are behind me and their calibre and experience and miles. I’m not getting my hopes up.”
Since the first sched at 0400 UTC this morning, when Hugo Boss was 7.2 miles ahead of second placed Maître CoQ, at 1530 UTC her lead had increased to 23.6 miles.
This morning Jean-Pierre Dick’s StMichel-Virbac was the fifth boat to reach Newport, Rhode Island, with foil damage, but she was also the first boat to leave again at around 1400 UTC. Of the four remaining boats Armel Le Cléac’h on Banque Populaire VIII has announced his retirement from the race while Yann Eliès’ Queguiner-Leucémie Espoir is expected to depart this evening and news is still awaited on Safran which sustained the most severe damage of the five to her foil which, like Banque Populaire‘s, was knocked back in its case.
When the collision occurred Safran’s skipper Morgan Lagravière said he had immediately tacked the boat as the hole caused by the impact with the UFO had caused his boat to flood. “In perhaps 20 seconds there was maybe one tonne of water inside the boat. It took me maybe two hours with the pump to empty it.”
Yesterday afternoon Conrad Colman’s 100% Natural Energy departed New York harbour officially starting the New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode. StMichel Virbac pulled back out on to the race track astern of 100% Natural Energy.
The Delma Record will be awarded at the finish to the skipper who has covered the most miles during a 24 hour period. The skipper to achieve this will receive a Delma Shell Star Automatique. Today’s highest daily run was managed by Alex Thomson and Hugo Boss, who sailed 475 miles at an average speed of 19.8 knots up until 12:15 today.
Queguiner-Leucémie Espoir – Yann Eliès Banque Populaire VIII – Armel Le Cléac’h Safran – Morgan Lagravière No Way Back – Pieter Heerema St Michel-Virbac – Jean-Pierre Dick