The leader for most of the past 20 days of the 2016/17 Vendee Globe Race, Alex Thomson (GBR), sailing Hugo Boss has been overtaken.
He now trails his former pursuer Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA) in Banque Populaire VIII by 15nm according to the latest tracker positions.
Hugo Boss is the most southern boat, just skirting the edge of the Ice Gate as they approach the Crozet group of islands in the Southern Ocean. The islands lie to the west of the better known landmark, the Kerguelen Islands.
A week ago, Thomson believes he hit an unidentified object in the water, breaking off his starboard DSS foil, which robbed his IMOCA60 of its ability to foil on port tack. He was sailing at 24kts in 22kts of wind at the time. At that point on November 20, he had been leading the 29 starters in the solo round the world race for a week.
“At 09.35 UTC this morning I was down below trying to sleep and the boat was sailing in 22kts of wind with a J2 and one reef in the main. I was averaging 24kts of boat speed when I heard an almighty bang and the boat stopped and turned to starboard by about 20 degrees,’ he reported at the time.
Despite the damage Thomson was able to hold his lead for a time and has set two 24 hours record marks – the first being the fastest singlehanded monoull sailor to the Equator, and the second the actual distance sailed in a 24 hour period, however he failed to exceed the distance by the required 1nm and the new mark will not be recognised.
Since then Thomson has maintained his lead over over 100nm over Le Cleac’h but began to be ground down as wind angles changed and Banque Populaire VIII was able to foil and started recording speeds of 2-4kts faster than Hugo Boss.
Given that both boats are in the same weather system it was just a matter of time before Le Cleac’h was able to pass.
From here Thomson is expected to hold on as best he can until the boats reach Cape Horn, or can get onto the other tack and use his remaining foil.
The third placed yacht Seb Josse in Edmond de Rothschild is close to 500nm behind Hugo Boss, after Josse also suffered damage from a UFO collision requiring a rudder repair as the boat entered the Southern Ocean.
A full report is yet to be issued by Thomson’s media team or Vendee Globe Race control.
by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com