by Vendee Globe
In the Vendee Globe, British skipper Alex Thomson, whose race so far has been one of the highlights of this edition, has reported that he has hit an unidentified object at high speed during Sunday night, damaging one rudder mechanism and a hydrogenerator on his IMOCA Open 60 Hugo Boss.
Francois Gabart, Macif - 2012 Vendee Globe
Thomson holds fifth place, 160 miles behind the leader Francois Gabart this morning, and is back making 18-19 kts after 24 hours of enforced slow down whilst he effected the rudder repairs. He reports that he is now down to only one working hydrogenrator – his primary source for generating electrical power.
Racing an older generation design Thomson has earned enormous respect for his ability to stay in the leading pack of newer IMOCA Open 60’s throughout the first month of racing. On Saturday he was lying in third place.
Thomson reports this morning:
'Night before last (December 9th) at 2220 GMT I hit something in the water while travelling at 22 knots. I was at the navigation table at the time and was sailing on port gybe with solent/J2 and two reefs in the mainsail in 28 knots of wind. I heard a loud bang forward of where I was which I think must have been something hitting either the keel or the daggerboard. I heard a series of softer bangs as whatever I hit bumped along under the hull and a final big bang as it hit the rudder and hydro generator.
By the time I got to the companionway hatch the rudder was in the air and the hydro generator was dragging in the water. The boat broached and went head to wind. I immediately rolled the J2 away and stopped the boat in a big sea.
On inspection the starboard rudder fuse had broken and the rudder had lifted with minor damage. The hydro generator blade was damaged and one of brackets was in pieces and eventually lost overboard. The rudder tie bar (the previously unbroken one) was also smashed in three pieces.
I set to work swapping tie bars to get the leeward rudder operational so I could steer safely in the right direction. The waves were very big and were coming up and over the transom and mainsheet traveller and were hitting the rudder blade while lifted. Both rudder cassettes sustained some damage while doing this and it was pretty dangerous hanging off the transom while being completely submerged by the waves.
Alex Thomson, Hugo Boss - 2012 Vendee Globe
Eventually I got the working rudder connected and started sailing again with the port rudder in the air. I contacted the team and started affecting a repair to the tie bar. I have been unable to sail at 100% while managing this repair. The repair has been done in a similar way to the previous tie bar but it has been more difficult and time consuming as the breaks were not clean and the conditions to affect a repair less forgiving. I will not be able to repair the cassette damage until it is dry on deck but the team feel that these repairs are not critical right now.
I expect to have both rudders working by this morning.
I lifted the starboard daggerboard as far as possible and can see no damage. The keel fin on this boat is made from solid steel so any damage there should be cosmetic. It is impossible to inspect the outside of the hull between the daggerboard and the rudder but the inner skin looks fine.
I am gutted to have lost so many miles but fortunate that the known damage is repairable and that I am able to continue on my way.
Longer term I am now down to only one hydro generator which means in the current conditions I will have to shut everything down into power saving mode and work hard to save power to be able to make the finish. This literally means everything off, computer, phone, GPS, etc otherwise I have no chance of making the finish.
Last night at 2030 GMT I was asleep when the pilot alarm went off. The boat was completely flat and I rushed on deck as the boat tacked. I rolled the J2 immediately and then found the working rudder had lifted and was in the air. I checked the blade for damage and all looks ok this time so I replaced the fuse and set it back down again, tacked the boat back again and got back on my way. More miles lost but again not terminal. I have had the working rudder kick up three times all year so It seems a little harsh to hit something twice in almost one day but I am thankful that the fuse is doing its job and the rudder is staying in one piece.
I really hope I don’t get dropped off the back of this lead group with these setbacks,'
His team comment: 'The hydro generators are the primary power supply on board and with only one of them working Alex now has to conserve his power by limiting the use of electronics on board. This will unfortunately mean a reduction in his communications, including communication with family back at home. The remaining hydro is working but only usable on one tack and will charge the batteries when the conditions allow, but it will restrict the amount of power available.'
After yesterday’s manic Monday when 24 hour distance records tumbled seemingly at will, the two Vendée Globe leaders passed the Amsterdam gate early this morning just eight miles apart. François Gabart on Macif lead the way, passing closest to the ‘mark’ at 0142hrs UTC with Armel Le Cléac’h some eight miles to the east on Banque Populaire some 17 minutes later. Meanwhile Spain’s Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% EcoPowered is closing on the Crozet gate, whilst the three solo skippers who are in closest pursuit of the leaders should also pass the Amsterdam gate over the course of today.
Monday was a big day for the pacemakers with the 500 miles mark exceeded eight times over the course of 24 hours topped by François Gabart’s almost incredible 545nm mark. Through the night the duel to the gate continued unchecked with Gabart’s choice to aim for the west extremity of the gate allowing him the short term advantage of bearing away fist and setting his gennaker. Behind the twins Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac-Paprec 3 was some 50 miles from the gate at 0400hrs TU this morning with a 39 miles advance on fourth placed Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat). Conditions remain excellent in the NNW’ly winds with Gabart’s 24 hour run to 0400hrs this morning spanning 507 miles.
The match race between Mike Golding and Jean Le Cam for sixth and seventh may not have been blessed with the same conditions as the leaders, but it lacks for nothing in intensity and durability. Golding has rebuilt his margin to his French rival to 22 miles but Le Cam is significantly quicker this morning, making 21kts compared with the British skipper’s 16kts. Dominique Wavre has been caught by a high pressure bubble and has only managed to average 8.5kts over the last 24 hours, now 175 miles behind Le Cam. But so too, this chasing trio are in a different weather system to the leaders and their losses mount, Golding’s Gamesa now 653 miles behind Macif.
But the magic of the Vendée Globe is always visible with three skippers at or approaching the first three ice gates at their own best speed, 3000 miles separating Gabart from Alessandro di Benedetto who still has 240 miles to make to his first, the Aiguilles gate. In the middle, at the Crozet gate Spain’s Javier Sanso will have soon set Acciona 100% EcoPowered on a more southerly course, in search of more wind and speed for the 1475 miles to his next gate.
Vendee Globe website