British sailor Alex Thomson and Australian yachtsman Andrew Cape have raced 'Hugo Boss', their IMOCA Open 60 class yacht, to a second place finish in the Barcelona World Race.
They crossed the finishing line, just off the Olympic Port in Barcelona, at 05:34:57 GMT on Thursday morning, which was their 95th day at sea. Braving the extremes of Southern Ocean gales along with horrific conditions near Gibraltar, just days from the finishing line, the pair also set a new 24-hour standard by sailing 500 miles during perfect conditions earlier in the race.
'It feels like it has been three months and the world is very big so it's great to be home,' Alex said on the pontoon, looking sharp in his Hugo Boss suit! 'I guess it will sink in after a few days. We've had a great laugh, and it's been good fun, hard work but good fun. Paprec Virbac 2's victory is well deserved. I think if we hadn't stopped we might have been closer. But they did a really good job, they should be very proud of themselves.'
The start of the race was a difficult one for Hugo Boss, who battled in the early stages in the generally light conditions. Thomson's new Finot-Conq design is pitched towards high-speed reaching conditions and there was precious little of that early in the race.
But early in December, just under one month into the race, everything came together for Thomson and Cape and they unleashed the potential of the new, black boat, setting a new record for the race and a world record (currently not ratified).
'We've just covered 500 miles in 24 hours,' shouted an overjoyed Thomson from the cabin of Hugo Boss during the daily videoconference. Of equal importance, the high mileage day brought Hugo Boss back in touch with the leaders as they streaked into the first stages of the Southern Ocean.
But less than three weeks later, with Hugo Boss in second place, Thomson announced that he was going to have to divert from the course and make a tactical pit-stop in Wellington, New Zealand. Race rules mandated this would be a minimum stop of 48 hours, but the Hugo Boss crew decided that damage to their rudder system was so serious, that not stopping wasn't a sensible option.
'I'm chuffed to bits with the performance of the boat so far,' Alex said at the time. 'I'm very pleased with our preparation and I think it's nothing short of a miracle that we've got to this stage of the race as competitive as we have been with such a new boat. It's only been in the water for three or four months. My team is in Wellington now, getting ready to see us in for the 48-hour stop. We'll get a rest, get some nice food and we'll set off again into the Southern Ocean at full pelt.'
When Hugo Boss rejoined the race, Paprec-Virbac 2 had extended to nearly 900 miles ahead or nearly four days of sailing time. The second Southern Ocean leg was an unusual one for the Hugo Boss crew, who faced unusually benign conditions. Weather patterns prevented them from dipping as far south as one would normally expect, and even their rounding of Cape Horn took place in relatively placid 15 to 20 knot winds.
In the last third of the race up the Atlantic Ocean, Hugo Boss again began to pressure the race leader; at one point, over the course of several days, they gained 450 miles, cutting the margin to the first place boat by half. But Thomson wasn't as enthusiastic as one might expect
'The fact that we have caught up miles in the last few days means absolutely nothing whatsoever,' he said Alex. He went on to explain that they remained much further downwind of Paprec-Virbac 2 and that he and co-skipper Andrew Cape couldn't see a way past.
In the event, his words proved prophetic. Despite sailing hard and battling through terrible conditions near Gibraltar, Hugo Boss couldn't close the gap any further, their effort falling just short of victory.
'It's a tough yacht race, it's longer, although obviously the same distance around the world,' said Andrew Cape when asked about this first edition of the Barcelona World Race. 'But the non-stop concept was new to me. Unfortunately we didn't quite make it around non-stop. It is harder but hard to compare with other ocean racing events. You just have to put in what you can; but this one was tough.'
Three boats remain at sea racing in the Barcelona World Race. Temenos II is forecast to finish on the 17th of February, with Mutua Madrileña some 30 to 36 hours behind. Educación sin Fronteras is due around the 25th or 26th February.
Full multimedia coverage of the finish is available at http://www.barcelonaworldrace.com