Alex Thomson's shore team inspects damage to Open 60

At 0500 yesterday Alex Thomson arrived back at Les Sables d’Olonne – some 61 hours after he had left the French port.

The true extent of the damage the boat suffered in a Biscay storm could not be assessed until the boat was lifted out of the water. Harry McGougan, Alex Thomson Racing’s Operations Director explained what they saw when the boat was lifted. “There is a transverse crack that runs through the outer and inner skin of the boat. Having now lifted the boat out of the water we can see the underneath of the boat and the full extent of the damage. The crack extends 5 metres to almost the centreline. The unidirectional fibres that makes up the outside layer of the boat have peeled off from the start of the crack to the back of the boat.”

To repair HUGO BOSS before next Wednesday’s restart deadline McGougan explained what the team need to achieve. “In the time scale available to us to restart the race we would have to do a full structural survey, put together a full repair plan and then put a team together the size of which we had for the repair three weeks ago.” A decision will be made tomorrow on the best way forward.

“At the moment there is no definite reason why this has happened but there is a strong possibility that the boat has hit something ,” concluded McGougan.

Alex Thomson explained the sequence of events that led up to the discovery of the cracked hull. “I was sailing in about 25knots of breeze, the front had gone through and I had tacked and was heading south on a beam reach. I couldn’t fully power up as the sea state was so bad, the boat was slamming through the waves. I heard a thud but couldn’t see anything visible to think I had hit something.”

“The previous day I had been on deck and gone below to find 1,500 litres of water sloshing around. The windward ballast tank was leaking, so when I saw more water down below I immediately thought there was another leak in the other ballast tank.”

“As I finished bailing out again, (this time only about 20 litres) I saw water was squirting through the hull like a small fountain from a crack in the hull.”