A nervous week of waiting comes to a welcome end for the British solo ocean racer Alex Thomson when his IMOCA Open 60 Hugo Boss emerged from the boat shed today ready to be slipped back into the water of Les Sables d'Olonne's Port Olona early Saturday morning.
It is expected that Hugo Boss will make an initial trial sail Saturday with Alex Thomson and his team progressively increasing the loads on the boat.
To the untrained eye there is no obvious sign of the substantial damage inflicted in a collision with a local fishing boat two weeks ago, in the very early hours of Friday 17 October at the entrance to the start port of the Vendée Globe, Les Sables d'Olonne.
Thomson returned from a short break at home in England to be reunited with his repaired Open 60:
'It is pretty unbelievable the job the guys have done,' Alex Thomson stated this morning, ' You really could never tell what the boat and the rig have been through at all. To think the state we were in only last Thursday, it is just amazing, but the guys have all done a fantastic job. Now for me it is a case of getting my head back into race mode. I have been home for a few days and really just tried to chill out as much as I could, literally sleeping as much as I could. Now I am sure that as soon as I get back on the boat and get some sailing then I will be right back into it.
The really difficult bit for me as skipper and owner, is the legal aspect and dealing with that, because you really have to look after it, and after all we are the victim in this.'
Jason Carrington, who the renowned English boatbuilder who oversaw the original build of Hugo Boss, was flown directly from Malta to help with the repairs. He confirmed at a press conference this evening that that while Thomson had been exceptionally unlucky to have the accident, there have been many elements of good luck which have lined up in their favour since:
'The damage to the boat perhaps looked a worse than it was, but if the collision had been half a metre further back it probably would not have been possible to fix the boat, it would have hit the chainplates, the structure which holds the standing rigging of the mast. So now the boat looks like it did before.'
'It will be strong, but it is a repair and the hull is a little heavier than it was before, and for the mast, we were very lucky because Southern Spars was making a mast from the same mould, and they were able to cut a section from the end - they made it too long - and so there was a section which was nearly ready for us.' Thomson confirmed. He said that as well as the new standing rigging, approximately 2 kilometres of running rigging has been completely replaced.
'It would probably be impossible to do what we have done, in this time, anywhere else in the world. But, because it is Les Sables d'Olonne, because everyone has the passion of the Vendée Globe, everybody has made it possible.' Concluded the solo skipper.
It is expected that Hugo Boss will make an initial trial sail tomorrow (Saturday) with Alex Thomson and his team progressively increasing the loads on the boat.
'Originally our goal was to win the Vendée Globe. After the accident the goal was to make the start of the Vendée Globe, and still for now the goal is to make the start of the Vendée Globe, but in three more days maybe we can go back to trying to win the Vendée Globe.' Concluded Thomson.