Keel damage for Hugo Boss in Transat Jacque Vabre

Published on November 3rd, 2019

(November 3, 2019; Day 8) – Alex Thomson and Neal McDonald are working on the safest place to navigate their damaged IMOCA 60 monohull, Hugo Boss, after announcing their withdrawal from the 14th edition the Transat Jacque Vabre, the 4,350-mile biennial double-handed race from Le Havre, France to Salvador de Bahia.

Earlier in the day they informed the race office that they were withdrawing from the race with the keel of their brand new 60-footer attached only by the hydraulic ram after hitting something in the water whilst traveling at around 25 knots at 09:57 UTC. For complete report, click here.

Hugo Boss had completed just over a third of the course, and it will be of little comfort to Thomson that his situation would appear to be a lot better than when he was helicoptered to safety after capsizing his previous boat in 2015.

Both skippers were working with their technical team on the best destination. The newly-launched and much admired Hugo Boss is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, about 420 miles southwest from Madeira and 380 miles northwest of the Canary Islands.

It has not been the happiest week for Hugo Boss. They had only just emerged from a ridge of high pressure that had left them 500 miles from the leaders. On October 30, in his first communication from the boat since the start on October 27, Thomson said that it was sail damage at Ushant after the first night at sea rather than strategy that had forced them to choose the route.

They were not alone in what was perhaps a more extraordinary divide than ever seen in the previous 13 editions of the Transat Jacque Vabre. Four others (Malizia II Yacht Club de Monaco, Bureau Vallée II, Maître CoQ IV, and Prysmian Group) also saw an opportunity to get a slingshot ride south from the great depression coming from the Azores. These western IMOCA were joined by Advens for cybersecurity.

Any lingering hope that the investment in the west would pay off appeared to close on Halloween eve as the ridge of high pressure seemed to dissipate for the leaders in the South whilst another bubbled up for the westerners.

At the front of the race, the leader, Charal, which has now completed half the race course, was the only one of the leading group of 11 IMOCA to risk the wind shadow of the Canary Islands, threading between Tenerife and Gran Canaria. They lost nearly 20 miles in four hours to Apivia from the 11:00 UTC – 15:00 UTC.

The leading IMOCA group are now in 14-16 knots north-easterlies plunging south towards the Cape Verde islands, which they will pass overnight (UTC time).

The three Multi50 are already there, with Primonial, unfortunately forced to stay for a pit-stop in Mindelo with energy problems. As ever, the Doldrums looms and all the skippers are looking for the best way to get west. But they are “thinning and getting organised” according to Richard Silvani of Météo France. A picture which can change by the hour.

Charlie Enright (USA) / Pascal Bidegorry (FRA) on the 2015 foiler, 11th Hour Racing, are in fifth and were just a mile behind PRB at the 15:00 UTC and 95 miles behind Charal.

“We’re doing everything we can just to push,” said Enright, competing in his first Transat Jacques Vabre and making his first short-handed Atlantic crossing. “It’s crazy trade wind sailing, so it’s push, push, push while we can. The pace has been pretty insane and obviously I’ve been doing a lot of stuff on the boat that (laughs) – I haven’t done sailing like this before, it’s been good.

“In a couple of days, we’ll move over to the west. Once you’re in the east it’s hard to get west, so we’re kind of just setting it all up. That’s the goal (a podium finish) certainly, from where we are, catching the other two boats certainly isn’t far-fetched and even the Apivias and Charals of the world if the Doldrums covered up, but in 14-16 knots and calmer sea state conditions those guys are pretty untouchable.”

If there is less surprise at the identity of the two leading 60ft monohulls – Charal and Apivia are both latest generation foilers – the speed the 29-year-old Frenchwoman, Clarisse Crémer and Vendée Globe winner, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire IX), is stunning as they have not upgraded their 2010 boat with foils and just have the old daggerboards.

In the smaller monohulls of the Class40, now a third of the way to Salvador de Bahia, the leaders have been facing exactly the same picture as the IMOCA around them, west is best. Kito de Pavant (Made in Midi) summed up the situation in his morning message: “The wind did not meet our expectations (by a long way), which made our option catastrophic.”

The former leader is now in seventh position – Made in Midi lost two more places overnight – and by his side, Crosscall Chamonix Mont Blanc has not fared much better.

Banque du Léman took full advantage of the situation in the west, rising four places in one day, with a speed boost that looks promising for the rest of the race. But as they positioned further the west the three in front plunged south in better breeze and have escaped a little.

Crédit Mutuel still leads with Britain’s Sam Goodchild on Leyton keeping pace in second just a mile ahead of Aïna Enfance and Avenir at the 15:00 UTC.

The Class40 race will enter a new phase this evening as the leaders should gybe and start to lengthen their stride south under spinnaker.

As for those at the back, still north of Casablanca, their progress could be hampered by the aftermath of the enormous swell generated by the storm Amélie, which is currently sweeping France.

The ETA for the entry into the Doldrums begins tomorrow night for the Multi50 with the first IMOCA to arrive 24 hours later.

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First held in 1993, the biennial Transat Jacques Vabre has three fleets of doublehanded teams – Class40s, Multi50s, and IMOCA 60s – competing from Le Havre, France’s to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. The 4350nm race started October 27 with estimated race times as:
Multi50: 11 days
IMOCA: 13-14 days
Class40: 19 days

Source: Transat Jacques Vabre


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