British solo sailor, Alex Thomson has smashed the single-handed monohull transatlantic record, by more than 24 hours, crossing the finish line at Lizard Point, off Falmouth in Cornwall, in time to get back for the London Olympic Opening ceremony.
The 38 year old sailor crossed the line at 17:17 GMT (18:17 BST) setting the new time at 8 days 22 hours 8 minutes, beating the previous record, subject to ratification by the World Sailing Speed Record Council, which had been held for 10 years.
“It has been a long few days,” said Alex. “The first half from New York was great with weather conditions in our favour, but things started to slow down the closer I got. But the wind has held out this morning and it’s so fantastic to have broken this record.”
Alex set sail from New York on July 17th at 19.09GMT to cover 2800 nautical miles in a quest to break the record for what is officially known as the ‘West to East Ambrose Lighthouse to Lizard Point Under 60ft Single-Handed Monohull Record, Male’, which sat at 10 days, 55 minutes and 19 seconds, and was set by Swiss sailor Bernhard Stamm 10 years ago.
His secondary aim was to get home in time for the 2012 London Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in order to support Chairman and good friend, Sir Keith Mills.
“When I set off I had no idea if I was going to be able to do it. And it has been hard. Lack of sleep, broken instruments on the boat and constant exposure to the elements has really taken it out of me. But it’s such a good feeling to have beaten it by such a great margin,” said Alex.
But the record breaking achievement is only half of the story. Alex is in fact lining up to attempt to be the first Brit ever to win the gruelling single-handed round-the-world race, the Vendee Globe, leaving from France in November on board his 60ft monohull, HUGO BOSS. And this record breaking achievement puts him in good stead.
“This record attempt was also a training exercise for the Vendee Globe,” said Alex. “We felt this record attempt would put me under real pressure and stimulate race conditions and I have felt a real value in it.”
He is one of three British competitors who will take part in the non-stop, solo, unassisted round-the-world yacht race starting in Les Sables d’Olonne in France, on November 10th. Currently only 50% of attempts to complete the race have been successful in the race known as the ‘Everest of sailing’
At 23:25 GMT on Thursday, Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon crossed the Felipe Cubillos Cape Horn Gate at 56S with Class40 Financial Crisis. Racing 49 miles off the infamous outcrop at the southern tip of Chile, Financial Crisis is the second, double-handed, Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) Class40 to round the world’s most notorious cape.
The fact that Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel took line honours at the gate with Cessna Citation doesn’t diminish the immense achievement of racing only the fifth Class40 to sail through the Southern Ocean and around Cape Horn. “What a day!” exclaimed Nannini shortly after crossing the gate. “I think it will take me a while to fully process this fact, but I’m sure it’ll live in my thoughts for the rest of my life.”
Having carried out a text book heaving-to manoeuvre west of Cape Horn to avoid strong winds as they approached the cape, Nannini and Ramon timed their run through the treacherous Drake Passage perfectly – almost: “Just when the weather was finally improving we were left with a last minute reminder of where we are as a squall came through during the night bringing another stint of 50-knot winds and lots of snow…it was quite surreal,” comments Nannini.
For Nannini’s co-skipper, Hugo Ramon, rounding the cape is an opportunity to indulge in some Cape Horn traditions: “Now I can wear a gold earring in my left ear and pee into the wind!” claims the 26 year-old Spaniard. On a more serious note, Ramon knows that sailing through Drake Passage is a monumental challenge: “I’ve really learnt, once again, that you have to respect nature and the elements,” he confirms. “I don’t think we tamed or conquered the elements by rounding Cape Horn safely,” he says. “Simply that Cape Horn has let us pass.”
After rounding Cape Horn conditions became increasingly light throughout Friday as Financial Crisis climbed north steeply and with weather models predicting further light airs, Nannini and Ramon decided to cut the corner. At 17:00 GMT on Friday, Nannini and Ramon had committed to sailing through Le Maire Strait – a 17-mile wide stretch of water between mainland Tierra del Fuego and the offlying Isla de Los Estados that has famously tricky currents and eddies.
Meanwhile, 370 miles to the north of Financial Crisis on Friday afternoon, Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel were 150 miles off the coast of Patagonia with Cessna Citation having left the Falkland Islands to starboard on Thursday night. Although the breeze has gone lighter for the New Zealand-South African GOR leaders, around 400 miles to the north a deep low pressure is building with 50+ knot winds forecast before the system tracks eastwards and into the South Atlantic. The duo on Cessna Citation are likely to aim for the western edge of the system.
Approximately 540 miles south-west of Cape Horn on Friday afternoon, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire are working beneath a high pressure system blocking the route of Phesheya-Racing: ““The weather forecast from the Chilean MRCC said that the wind would ease some more and the sea would be ‘rippled to slight’,” confirms Hutton-Squire. “They are very right as there is a small swell rolling, but generally it is very flat,” she adds. “I can’t believe we are in the South-East Pacific but we are enjoying the sea state and wind conditions.”
The weather on Friday did permit 45th birthday celebrations for Leggatt: “The sea is so flat today we lit the candles, sang happy birthday, took some video and photos, then Nick blew the candles out.” Despite the celebrations on board, the frustrating light airs are set to continue: “We think we have about three or four days until we get to Cape Horn, but it all depends on the high pressure in front of us,” predicts Hutton-Squire.
GOR leaderboard at 17:00 GMT 24/2/12:
1. Cessna Citation DTF 908 7.6kts
2. Financial Crisis DTL 375 8.7kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 1011 7.6kts
8 tonnes of carbon fibre yacht, a 255 horsepower jet ski, 45 combined years of sailing experience, and one crazy guy in a suit. ‘We’ve got a safety boat, a film boat, a jet ski… all we need is a plane, man!’ said Alex Thomson, shortly before heading out into the waters of The Solent in the UK to attempt what he calls ‘The Keel Walk’, a stunt that has become infamous throughout the world thanks to the iconic image of Alex ‘riding’ the keel of his 60ft yacht ‘HUGO BOSS’. ‘But everyone always assumes it was ‘Photoshopped’,’ said Alex ‘and I was determined to prove them wrong, so we decided to try again.’ Easier said than done…to sail at the right speed to keep the keel out of the water for long enough for Alex to get on it, you need 18 knots of wind, a slight sea state and a seriously cool-headed skipper. ‘We’d wake up one day and the conditions would look just right, so we’d sound the alarm and get the boat prepped, bring in the jet ski guy, the RIB driver, the photographer, the camera guys… I’m in the suit, ready to go…and the wind drops. It was hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait.’
Having already tried his hand at foiling, last week round the world sailor Alex Thomson went keel walking on his IMOCA Open 60 HUGO BOSS in the Solent.
“I’ve wanted to stand on the keel while sailing for a couple of years, and last week in 17-20 knots of breeze I stood on the keel whilst sailing wearing a HUGO BOSS suit. It was pretty dangerous but a real buzz.”
In 2005 Alex became the first skipper to sign up for the 3 in 3 – 3 round the world races in 3 years starting with the Velux 5 Oceans in 2006, followed by the Barcelona World Race (BWR) in November 2007, and culminating in the 2008 Vendee Globe
Alex was forced to retire from the Velux 5 Oceans due to severe structural problems. He overcame the Southern Ocean by achieving a second place podium finish in the Barcelona World Race. Whilst on this race Alex smashed the 60ft monohull world distance record and was in excellent shape for the Vendée Globe.
However, only 3 weeks before the Vendée was due to commence, Alex was dramatically struck by a French fishing vessel. His team fought against the clock to finish the repairs in record time to achieve the impossible – and get Alex to the start line. Alex’s dreams to become the first Briton to win the much coveted title were shattered after only 3 days racing; when he discovered HUGO BOSS was letting in water from structural failure to the hull. Devastated, Alex announced his retirement from the Vendée. He is determined to return and compete in the 2012
Record breaking yachtsman Alex Thomson has been making the most of HUGO BOSS being back in the water and enjoying some ‘foiling’ off his IMOCA Open 60 in the Solent.
Alex, always one for a challenge was thrilled to get out on the water and found the ‘foiling’ an exhilarating experience and was able to execute some complex moves thanks to the technology of the Carafino ‘Hydrofoil’ board, one of the most highly innovative designs available.
“The conditions were perfect with good breeze and sunshine adding to the feel good factor on the day. I haven’t been ‘foiling’ before but I loved it. It’s pretty extreme – at a certain speed the hull is lifted above the water and the craft skims along on the hydrofoils at great speeds. It’s like snowboarding, just on water,” explained Alex.
Richard Thompson from Carafino UK was on board Hugo Boss with Alex last week and was hugely impressed with not only the Open 60, but also with Alex.
“What a guy! He has this tremendous confidence with the water you don’t see very often and was straight up and gone first time. His level of fitness is staggering and served him well on the Hydrofoil, I really was blown away by his performance. Alex looked completely at ease and was in control all the time.”
After a turbulent end to 2008 Alex is now focusing on the next four years. Alex and HUGO BOSS will compete in this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race in August and the double-handed Transat Jacque Vabres in November before focusing on the Barcelona World Race in 2010. Before that though Alex is currently sailing HUGO BOSS to Monaco ready for the Monaco Grand Prix 21-24 May, as part of the Hugo Boss VIP hospitality programme
Last week HUGO BOSS went back into the water in her home berth in Haslar Marina, after spending the last few months in Endeavour Quay being repaired. She looks in excellent shape having had all structural repairs done, and her hull re-sprayed.
The mast has now been stepped and the boat is being prepped this week for sailing . She will then spend the next few weeks doing sea trials, and will be having the rigging and tuning tweaked to get her back into top condition. She will be sailing over the next weeks with technicians and sailmakers to ensure she reaches her peak performance.
She will then leave during the 2nd week of May for The Mediterranean, where Alex and the team will be present for the Monaco Grand Prix, supporting Hugo Boss and the McLaren team. Alex and our boat captain Ross Daniels will use the delivery trip as training for their double handed challenge in November, The Transat Jacques Vabres. Alex and Ross have also been putting a great deal of time into their shore-side training, with daily gym and squash workouts.
The whole team are now gearing up for the coming 6 months, with Will Jackson and Ollie Young, who both worked on the HUGO BOSS ll Volvo 60 tour, stepping up to help prepare the boat and get her ready for this new season.
So if you are down on the south coast in the next month keep an eye out for HUGO BOSS and the team!
The team at Alex Thomson Racing