Alex Thomson suspects fishing gear ended his Vendée Globe (update 30Nov20)

A mere and guttingly brief two hours after Alex Thomson’s team released a statement saying he was back in action, sailing at full speed, Thomson notified his technical team on shore of damage to the starboard rudder of Hugo Boss.

“I was averaging 21 knots, flying the small gennaker and one reef in the mainsail,” Thomson says. “I was down below when there was a huge bang and the boat broached violently. The steering system was jammed and all I could do was roll the sails away. Once on deck I could see the rudder blade was broken and swinging around with a large piece of fishing gear jammed into the cracks. So I think I must have hit something. It certainly looks that way. Now I am having to keep the boat flat while I sail the boat now with just one rudder to Cape Town.”

After the incident, his team immediately advised Thomson to disconnect the rudder to regain steerage. He gained control of the yacht with one rudder, but less than 24 hours later announced he’d ceased racing in the Vendée Globe and was now sailing towards Cape Town.

“Unfortunately, a repair is not possible,” says Thomson. “We therefore accept that this will be the end of the race for us. Myself, my team and our partners are of course deeply disappointed. We believe the best was yet to come in this race.”

It’s expected to take the skipper around seven days to make the journey to Cape Town. He’ll do so without the use of his starboard rudder and so will proceed safely and cautiously. Thomson’s technical team will travel to Cape Town to meet the yacht upon arrival.

Among the three thousand plus comments on Thomson’s facebook, offering words of condolence and support, is fellow competitor Pip Hare.

“I’m completely gutted for you Alex, your team and your sponsors,” Hare says. “I know you have all poured your hearts and souls into winning this race for many many years. Right now the main focus has to be getting you safely to shore and just know me and the team are thinking of you.”

“Alex is a true winner by the hearts of thousands upon thousands of sailors around the world, who all cherish the way Alex always seem to tackle even the worst of events with a positive mindset and that wide ear to ear grin of his, that has come to act as a loveable signature of a true idol,” says one commentator, summing up the main theme of the 3.6K other comments.

Charlie Dalin, the Vendée Globe race leader, should pass the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope today..

Hear from skippers around the fleet

Sam Davies is in the Southern Ocean

“My first real Southern Ocean night – in the conditions behind the front. Air temperature 10°C. I gybed just before Gough Island, in the clement zone close behind the front -25knt TWS – but rapidly the breeze built and the instability arrived. It felt a little bit close to Gough Island for comfort so I furled the A7 in order to sail a clear enough course to pass safely to the South West of Gough.

“My feeling was correct as rapidly I encountered the first big gust – 40 knots of wind. The sea state has built. When the breeze goes from 25 to 40 in the middle of the night for the first time, you get caught by surprise! So a little ‘wipe out’ (thank goodness the A7 was already furled) and Initiatives Coeur lay flat on her side with a nice cold wave breaking over her.

“Ease all the sheets and back on our feet (that too is a scary manoeuvre as you have to bear away but not too far so as to avoid a Chinese Gybe on the way out.)

“So then the tricky bit is to find a trim and sail set-up for 22 to 42 knots of wind speed. That’s not easy, when you are sailing solo and you need to rest a little and not stay all night in the cockpit with the sheets in your (cold) hands. It’s a frustrating compromise with a lot of time ‘down speed and other heart-palpitating moments of extreme acceleration down waves with a little too much wind.

“Inevitably, I did a few more little wipeouts, but the night is over, nothing is broken and the average wind speed is starting to drop. Later I should be able to deploy a bigger sail and get going a bit faster. The albatrosses that are gliding around in my wake are having fun. In the meantime, I am going to put a thicker pair of socks on because my feet are blocks of ice.” (17.03 29Nov20)

Watch Davies update from (22.34 27Nov20) below which, although it’s not the latest, MIN has included as it has subtitles.

Pip Hare says Saturday night was perfect

“Conditions have just slightly altered, enough to allow me to power Medallia up and get her drive back and after days of kicking and thrashing we got our act together and shot off through the night. I hardly needed to lift a finger, just set it up and the autopilot did the rest.

“What a relief to be moving again, I must admit I thought I was going to be stuck doing 12 knots for the rest of the planet. Just a change in wind direction of 10 degrees has taken the hand brake off and made all the difference.

“To top it all we had a full moon early in the evening and this is something truly beautiful to experience at sea. When there is no other light pollution the moon is an incredible source of light. It lights the deck, the sails, its path across the sea glitters silver, everything is bathed its light, there are no need for torches, the world is lit up in monochrome.

“As Medallia’s bow broke through the waves the water coming down the deck looked like molten silver. Just being on deck and experiencing these colours and sensations was a privilege.” (09.33 29Nov20)

Miranda Merron

Heading south, Merron spent a Sunday that she describes as routine, with a nice lie-in and a good meal.

“I’m starting to eat well,” she says. (08.14 30Nov20)

“Officers watching over very friendly ship bridges agree to modify their route to let me pass on these peaceful sea lanes. Not so far from us in the East, and according to latest piracy statistics, across the Atlantic, off Nigeria, boats are under attack, up to 196 miles offshore. Authorities recommend that sailboats move to more than 250 miles from the coast to avoid them.

“Again yesterday a merchant ship was attacked and 10 crew members were kidnapped. Imagine if we were asked to sail 250 miles off the European coast to avoid armed attacks and kidnapping?” (08.26 28Nov20)

Watch yesterday’s round-up from race organisers

Be warned, it takes a while to get going. (15.35, 29Nov20)

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