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Alex Thomson describes the Hugo Boss collision

by Lucy Harwood on 18 Oct 2008
Hugo Boss Skipper Alex Thomson after the incident .. .
Alex Thomson, skipper of Hugo Boss, held a press conference Friday afternoon and described the incident that took place in the early hours when his Open 60 was hit by a fishing boat outside les Sables d’Olonne, France. Hugo Boss had arrived to take part in the Vendée Globe race.

At 2.30 this morning, a fishing boat hit the hull of the boat. It caused a lot of damage, leaving a large hole and the mast broken as well. After the incident the mast was cut away, we arrived into the les Sables d’Olonne, France at about 4:30 am local time.

The situation now is to look at the damage on the boat and see how big the repair is, and ultimately how long the repair will take. In the meantime, as we speak, the mast and the sails have been recovered, and when the mast arrives here we’ll be able to ascertain how long it will take to repair.

For the moment we have no more details than that. My team and I have been preparing for this Vendée Globe for the last four years and we’re not about to give up now. We have three weeks and two days until the start of the race, and I’m hoping that it’ll either be a long time or a short time, hopefully a long time.

I’m fortunately surrounded by a fantastic team of people. We’ve had other disasters before, and each time we’ve been able to recover from it. Until somebody tells me we cannot start the race on 9 November, we will start on November 9th.

We have many possibilities with the mast, one is to repair, another one to build, I’ve been offered a mast from Yann Elies, and the sailing world is a very close one, so it’s been very supportive'.

Q: How many crew were on board?
A: We were three on board, two were sleeping, one on watch

Q: Do you have anti collision radars?
A: We do, we have everything

Q: If the radar was on, or the crew member was on watch, how did they not see the fishing boat coming?
A: The fishing boat’s radar was also on. When it happened, it happened very quickly and the guy on watch tried to get the engine started but it didn’t happen in time.

Q: Was he inside or out?
A: He was outside

Q: And he didn’t see the boat?
A: Some fishing boats are with lights, some without, and they go fast, I wasn’t on deck so I didn’t see what happened.

Q: Where exactly was the boat?
A: We were about 1.5 miles outside of the channel.

Q: What did the fisherman say?
A: I think his first concern was to make sure that everybody was ok.

Q: No explanations?
A: He said he didn’t see us.

Q: In terms of manpower, what do you expect?
A: I’m very fortunate, I have a very good team of people, including our designer, so I think the manpower is not a problem.

Q: How many people do you think it will take to repair the damage?
A: Until they decide what the repair is I can’t say.

Q: Was the boat hit under the waterline?
A: No, it’s very close.

Q: Were you waiting for the tide?
A: We were waiting for a change of crew.

Q: Do you think that the watch on board Hugo Boss could be to blame?
A; I don’t consider us to be in blame, no. The mast is 28 meters tall

Q: Can we go over what happened last night to Hugo Boss?
A: We were just outside the port of Sables d’Olonne, and at about 3 in the morning, lights on, everything on, a fishing boat plowed straight into us, making a big hole and breaking the mast. After the fishing boat made sure we were ok, we had to cut the mast.

The boat has a big hole, it’s in bad shape, and we’re not sure how much needs to be going into it. We have construction engineers and designers looking into the quickest and most effective ways to repair the damage. At the moment the mast is being collected at sea, and we have the pieces so we’ll see if it’s able to be repaired, otherwise Dominique Wavre has offered us a mast.

I’m devastated, we’ve spent four years preparing for the race, four years ago I stopped, so we spent many years getting ready, to not be even at the race village is hard. For the moment, the intention is definitely to be at the start on 9 November, if no one tells us it’s impossible, then it’s possible, and so many people have offered us support, so we’re lucky.

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