A collision which could have knocked Britain’s Alex Thomson out of the Vendée Globe round the world race has also affected his ability to communicate with his team base as he continues to make fast progress deep south in the Indian Ocean.
Thomson has reported that his 60-foot Hugo Boss was making 20 knots when he heard the sound of a collision in the bow of the boat, two more bumps and then a big bang as the floating object then hit one of his two rudders and ripped away part of his electricity generating equipment.
In a report, he said: “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 (which releases the rudder) 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 3 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.
“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. 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.
“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 over 15,000 miles away.This literally means everything off, computer, phone, GPS, etc otherwise I have no chance of making the finish.”
But Thomson has not only held on to fifth place but early Tuesday morning was still 135 miles behind the leader, François Gabard who, over the weekend set a new world record of 545 miles in 24 hours.
But such has been the speed of the leading group that he has a slender lead of less than three miles over second-placed Armel le Cléac’h with Jean-Pierre Dick showing a 50-mile deficit and Bernard Stamm just 35 miles ahead of Thomson.
And Thomson has a cushion of nearly 500 miles over sixth-placed British rival Mike Golding.