FoilingLostOcean Racing

in order to finish first…

We couldn’t be more gutted for Alex Thomson and the UK-based Hugo Boss team after the world’s best known English-speaking ocean racer crashed headlong into the rocks on Guadeloupe Island at nearly 20 knots.  Thomson was able to motor his smashed Open 60 off the island, finishing the Route Du Rhum first-in-class a day later, though the 24-hour penalty he copped (for firing up the motor) from the International Jury drops him well out of first place.  Alex was half a day away from winning his first-ever Route Du Rhum  – the most prestigious race in the entire Open 60 world after the Vendee Globe – when, according to the above post-race interview, a sleeping Alex’s proximity alarms failed and only sideways reality and the sound of crunching, smashing carbon woke the Brit.
Just a couple of days earlier and in a commanding, 230-NM lead over the Open 60 fleet, Thomson ironically told the fans in a video interview that he just needed to avoid making mistakes.  He then went and made the most dangerous mistake of all – taking a nap surrounded by rocky bits of land.  As the world’s most important solo sprint race, the RdR has seen dozens of crashes due to sleep deprivation over the years, and it won’t stop anytime soon.  And while it’s a bummer to see the current VPLP/Verdier Hugo Boss take a hit like this to the foil and hull, the team thinks it will be able to repair the boat and continue the campaign to sell what is clearly one of the fastest Open 60s on the planet.  If you’ve been eyeing the sexy black beast, maybe it’s time to put in a lowball offer?
The english-language portion of the RdR arrivals video including Alex’s interview is above, and it should start automatically at around 8:30.  Rewind to beginning for the French portion.  The thread is humming with info about the race, the penalty, and the various other collisions and capsizes on the course.  Go there.
Here’s a translation of top sailors’ thoughts regarding the grounding and penalty (from a Ouest-France piece, with thanks to SA’er Bebmoumoute for the translation):

Alain Gautier
Whoever laughs at Alex aboutt he situation doesn’t understand anything about sailing! It is very sad, even stupid. But you have to understand, after 12 day’s racing, it is very hard on the body. Did he fall asleep on purpose or not? When you are that tired, you don’t control anything: you can sit at the chart table et fall asleep in a fraction of a second. Alarms? If he didn’t chose to fall alseep, he didn’t put them on. We all did it anyway, it buzzes, you press the button to stop it, and just close your eyes for 10 seconds…
It is quite common in Figaro. We’ll have to wait for the jury decisions, but Paul and Yann have had a great race as well, wherever they finish. Yann impressed me! He fell in a wind hole at Cap Finisterre, didn’t have any luck in the low pressure, and since then he pushed really really hard, very impressive! I am a bit more surprised about Vincent. His broken wind mode on his autopilot doesn’t justify everything for me, I bet there are more problems. Even in compass mode, he should have been able to go faster.
Jean Le Cam
An alarm? You can have all the alrms you want, sometimes they won’t wake you up when you are that exhausted. If the pilot what in wind mode, the boat just followed the wind. It happened to Joyon after his round the world record – same thing. He ended up int he rock in North Finistere. I once had to fend off rocks under my Figaro. My pilot was in wind mode, and we ended up in rock mode!
Aaprt from that, well done to Tripon, 3rd on the line. Congrats! Beautiful victory. And what Paul and Yann are doing, it is also great. Yann was 50 nm behind at Cap Finisterre. Since, he pushed so hard, what a nice job he did! I guess he is still 100%. I know him: I raced halfway round the globe with him. He never lets go, he is a great competitor. Whether he is solo or not, he is always thinking about everything to stay at the front. Hell of a job Yann!
Yves Le Cornec
I think Alex kind of let go when approaching Guadeloupe, with his 180 nm lead. When you finish that race, you are proprely fried. I remember in 1990, getting closer to the finish, I was told about Florence Arthaud’s victory, I was really happy for her and I stopped thinking about the race for a bit. My 20/30 min naps turned into a 4 hour one, despite all the alarms! There is a limit when you so tired and you just stay awake due to stress. I think Alex slept deeply and for a long time. He must have gone down for 30 minutes and didn’t wake up.
Non-sailors will say that it is unbelievable to make such a big mistake and still possibly win! It is not that crazy. It was a tough race on tough boats. He gave 100% from the start and built fatigue. I think he is exhausted! It is not the same rythm on a Vendee Globe or Route du Rhum. When ou know what Route du Rhum is like, it is understandable. I can only imagine what a nightmare it’s been. What a way to wake up! Hit the cliff at 19 knots in the dark and wake up in the middle of the rocks, mayhem! He mustn’t have known if he was dreaming or if it was reality! You can’t wish that happening to your worst enemy. I have been there, it is a big cliff!  He was lucky to get away, he could easily have lost his boat, ehich would have been really sad. DSQ? I leave this to the jury, but in my opinion he still deserves to win! It could be a 10 hour penalty. And for Paul, Yann or Vincent, winning like that is never satisfactory. In the 1984 OSTAR, Yvon wins when Philou was the first over the line. What a sad story, none of them really won at the end.
Bernard Gallay
Alex had a great race, it is really sad it is ending up like that. For me, the only opposition for him was Charal, but the boat was too recent.
DSQ? I don’t know. I didn’t really give it much thought, but for me, he can’t win. He would never has gone off the rocks without using his engine. I can’t see how you can grant him the victory in these conditions. It is complicated and could lead to strange things in the future. An english jury would’nt even think about it… unless if the other ones are 3 days behind… and even though… It is a complicated story! It is difficult to give him a time penalty, with no engine,he would have been DNF! I am not part of the jury though…