One year after tragically losing his yacht HUGO BOSS during the Velux 5 Ocean Race, British round the world sailor Alex Thomson has passed the point where he was rescued by Mike Golding. Currently competing in the Barcelona World Race, a double-handed non-stop round the world race, Thomson has been forced to confront his fears as he blasts through the Southern Ocean.
The conditions have already claimed two boats as PRB, the pre-race favourite, and Delta Dore have both retired from the race after being dismasted. The Spanish boat Estrella Damm is also heading for South Africa after suffering damage to one of her rudders.
Having set a new 24 hour distance world record last week, HUGO BOSS is currently lying in third place, 218 miles behind leader Paprec Virbac and 83 miles behind second placed Veolia Environnement. Thomson and his co-skipper Andrew Cape (‘Capey’) are sailing south of latitude 50°S, through the most hostile and treacherous oceans on the planet. The waves in this part of the world are monstrous and the wind blowing off the coast of Antarctica is bitterly cold.
'We have to contend with daily sleet and snow showers' says Thomson, 'and the water temperature can be as low as 4°C, which also makes icebergs a potential hazard.' The experience that Alex will get from this passage through the deep south will stand him in good stead for his next solo round the world adventure, the Vendee Globe in 2008, which will see him tackle the same stretch of water on his own. Thomson commented:
'Passing the point where I lost my boat last year was a big milestone for me. We have throttled back a bit over the last few days as it is important to preserve the boat. Statistics suggest that only 50% of the boats that entered this race will finish and you need to be in it to win it. I am learning a huge amount about the HUGO BOSS and how she handles in these conditions, as well as gaining a better understanding of navigating through the Southern Ocean. Both Capey and I are really enjoying the race, but are looking forward to heading north to warmer climes as it’s seriously cold down here!'
The fleet will spend the next week or so in the Southern Ocean before passing through the Cook Straits between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. The boats will then head south-east to Cape Horn and finally north up the Atlantic to the finish in Barcelona. The 25,000 mile course should take three months to complete, finishing in February 2008.