Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill, skippers of yacht Hugo Boss in the Transat Jacques Vabre set off their emergency beacon this afternoon at 13.25UT. The Spanish Coastguard was informed and sent a rescue helicopter to their location 82 nautical miles from the Spanish coast. Both Thomson and Altadill were rescued from the location by helicopter and are on their way back to land.
Hugo Boss incurred some structural damage earlier this week forcing Alex and Guillermo to stop racing. The Skippers had made a repair and were on route to A Coruna where the technical team were waiting to meet them. After sailing for a period of 36 hours in high seas and strong winds, the structure of the boat deteriorated further and the boat started to take on water and sink. The technical team are in A Coruna, Spain awaiting further information from the coast guard.
Managing Director Stewart Hosford expresses ‘Our first concern is with Alex and Guillermo and when they are safely on the ground we will address the situation with our IMOCA 60 and begin the salvage process. We are grateful for the swift response from the rescue services in this situation.’
The second Saturday of the Transat Jacques Vabre and the worst should, by all accounts, be behind the fleet. Mostly all of Class 40, IMOCA, Multi50 and the Ultimes are in the Trade Winds now, working the rotation around the Azores high pressure to best effect.
Right now these hours are the first real chance to take stock, to ramp up the rest, to sort out the watch routine to really look after each other so maximum energy and maximum speed are available from here to the finish. Often one skipper will start on the necessary repairs and one will keep the boat up at maximum speed.
Most skippers who have been spoken to by Race HQ in the last 48 hours have confirmed they have damage of some type. Eric Bellion, the French co-skipper sailing with Briton Sam Goodchild, revealed they had to replace a damaged lashing on a leeward shroud. The problems for Sam Davies, sailing with Tanguy de Lamotte on Initiative Coeur, is more serious but so far not race-threatening.
An initial problem when their windward, starboard rudder was smashed by a wave, damaging the top attachment, was sorted by the pair before they could gybe. But once they were settled on the new gybe they discovered a crack in the supporting structure for the rudder box. This, reported de Lamotte will require a longer term repair.
But the duo are absolutely determined to finish their race and hold on to their fourth place. Having slowed today, sailing under smaller jib and reefed main, they had slid to fifth but were still just 13 miles behind Thomas Ruyant and Adrien Hardy on Le Souffle de Nord (ex Groupe Bel). And this afternoon the duo reported that they had made a successful repair and were just waiting for it to dry.
“Many boats have made the U turn, but we are fourth and want to keep it. We must fight on and we need to finish. It is all good training for next year. Sam is very optimistic.” De Lamotte reported.
With SMA now abandoned from fourth place the breakaway group forming the vanguard of the IMOCA fleet is lead by Banque Populaire VIII which is just over 20 miles ahead of PRB, Vincent Riou and Seb Col with Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir, Yann Elies and Charlie Dalin at 36 miles behind. Then there is a 280 miles gap back to Ruyant and Hardy. Bellion and Goodchild are ninth with 11 of the 20 starters still actively racing in the direction of Brasil.
In Class 40 the leaders are lengthening their stride too, Le Conservateur now 56 miles ahead of V and B but the top four boats are still within 100 miles of each other.
But, perhaps contrary to some expectations, the closest match on the race course is the duel between the two leaders, Sodebo Ultim’ and Macif. Since 0430hrs this morning they have been pacing each other at near identical speeds 27-28kts, making around 530 mile days. Francois Gabart and Pascal Bidégorry still have the upper hand, five miles up on Thomas Coville and Jean-Luc Nélias.
Eric Bellion (FRA), Comme Un Seul Homm Stand As One (IMOCA): “We have a few things to do. These are the result of the first week at sea. The wind has calmed down now. We wanted to set the spinnaker but we found some problems with the leeward shroud. The lashing had ripped off and if we had gybed we would have surely lost the rig. We repaired that and the wind vane we had to climb the mast to replace it. But we did the right things. It is all good now. We are in the trade winds now going south under spinnaker. The conditions? Sun, 15kts wind which comes from the NW which allows us to get south. We sailed with some good teams around us but we have lost a little time. But we are very happy with the start of our race. Now we tidy stuff away, clean up, eat a little and then we implement the strategy. Our routing now tells us we are on the same tack to the finish.”
Tanguy de Lamotte, skipper Initiatives-Coeur(IMOCA): ‘It is a bit slow but we are on the right gybe now. Out problems started the day before yesterday when the rudder was damaged before we gybed. Last night we picked our time to get it off as it damaged the upper rudder mounting. We fixed it and set the big kite. This morning I was at the helm and the load on the rudder was too much and it ripped the horizontal strengthening. So we have two composite repairs to stabilise it. I think it will take most of the way to Cape Verde to get it fixed. We have one reef and the J3 in 15kts of wind. But we really can’t push too hard or it stresses the damage. So we are in repair mode but still going, on course. Many boats have made the U turn, but we are fourth and want to keep it. We must fight on and we need to finish. It is all good training for next year. Sam is very optimistic.”
Maxime Sorel, V and B skipper (Class40): ‘We set the spinnaker tonight, it feels good! We have about 25 knots, there was more and we pushed south at 190 ° towards Cape Verde. Water was everywhere after these conditions. Now we enjoy the sunshine, get things dry and get rid of any water on board. We are still in our foulies though because there is a big swell. I cannot wait to get shower and in to some clean clothes. Our cockpit is enclosed so I can shower there. Soap up, wash off with fresh water. We have struggled a bit for weather info with no wind wane. But we see what is happening behind the guys in front. We made a good start to the race. Now we need to fix the want but need to wait for the swell to drop to climb the mast.”
Jean-Luc Nélias, co-skipper of Sodebo Ultim ‘(Ultime): ‘The trade winds are welcoming us but are weak. We need to have the boat at between 18 and 20kts. The boat is fantastic. Looking at the Doldrums, where we are heading does not look too bad. It changes every day. The sea is flat and it is nice. As for MACIF this is their time a bit, they got a bit more wind yesterday and we were lifted so that was to his advantage. But it really is neck and neck, there is nothing in it and we have been at the same speeds since 0430hrs this morning. And last night was the first time we really got some sleep. And now we are on a longer gybe and so there is time to do things.”