British yachtsman Alex Thomson and his Australian co-skipper Andrew Cape will be forced to take a pit stop in the Barcelona World Race, in order to carry out repairs on HUGO BOSS.
The duo will suspend racing off Wellington, New Zealand, within the next 24 hours, in order to mend their suspect rudders and check the boat over before heading back into the Southern Ocean.
Under race regulations, Hugo Boss will be required to stay in port for a minimum of 48 hours as a penalty for receiving outside assistance from their shore team. With four competitors having already retired from the race with major breakages, the priority for Thomson and Cape is to preserve the boat and give them the best possible chance of completing the Barcelona World Race. The decision to stop was not an easy one to make, however the rudders were at best preventing Hugo Boss from performing to its optimum and had the potential to cause much more serious damage.
Thomson commented: 'From the start of this race our goal has been primarily to finish in good shape and to learn as much as we can along the way. Of course Capey and I both want to win, but with another stretch of Southern Ocean between Wellington and Cape Horn, we feel the safest and most prudent decision is to make a pit stop.
The rudders have become loose in their cases and loose from the boat and we are concerned that they will fall off at some point down the race track. Being kick up rudders they also seem to prefer pointing at the sky rather than the sea bed and this issue has resulted in two nasty crash gybes, a situation which can cause a dismasting. Although we could fashion a repair onboard, we would not be able to sail with full confidence and are not willing to take the risk of suffering serious damage later on in the race when we are thousands of miles from land.'
Thomson continued: 'The break will also give us an opportunity to fix various other issues, which although they have not affected the boat’s performance, have been plaguing us for sometime. We will be able to make a detailed check of the rest of the boat and leave at 100%, with full confidence in the boat. We are extremely pleased with the performance of Hugo Boss and the fact that we have made it this far with minimal damage in such a new boat is a testament to the work our team put in before the start.
Both Capey and I were initially disappointed with having to make this decision, but now we are happy because it means we will be able to compete equally again. Of course after 45 days at sea the prospect of a warm bed and fresh meal is very appealing!'
Once she commences racing again, Hugo Boss will head south-east to Cape Horn and finally north up the Atlantic to the finish in Barcelona. The 25,000 mile race which began in early November, should take three months to complete, finishing in February 2008. From the outset, this race has been a testing platform for Thomson's new Open 60 and his ultimate goal remains the same; to become the first Britain to win the Vendee Globe in 2008.