Unexpected finale to Velux 5 Oceans in-port race

At 10:00 hrs on Saturday morning, seven yachts entered in the Velux 5 Oceans race left their pontoons in Bilbao for a fully-crewed race in the Bay of Biscay.

The event provided top quality sailing and tactical turmoil but with an unexpected finale. Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) quickly developed a substantial lead that hard
sailing by Mike Golding (Ecover) and Bernard Stamm (Cheminees Poujoulat Landolt) failed to close on.

Thompson surprised spectators, however, by sailing past the committee boat on the wrong side, failing to finish the race. While many expected Thomson to realise his mistake and turn Hugo Boss around to re-cross the line, the black-hulled Open 60 altered course to shore away from the race area.

As first boat back to the race pontoons, Hugo Boss was centre of attention for the waiting media, keen to know what had gone wrong at the end of an otherwise immaculately sailed race. Thomson answered: ‘Obviously I take this kind of racing very seriously, including this in-port race, but sailors are very superstitious and there is a folklore that says no skipper who has won a prologue race has gone on to win the main event in which he is competing… therefore, I knew in my heart even before the regatta started, that if we came to the finish and we were in first place, then we would not complete the regatta.’

Mike Golding (Ecover) took line honours, finishing the 18 nautical mile race in a little under two hours, but the British skipperalsowithdrew from the regatta shortly after returning to the marina as he was unhappy with Thompson’s call:

‘The real upset of the day came after the race was finished when we learned that Alex Thompson (Hugo Boss), unknown to us, deliberately finished incorrectly leaving us as a default winner. This circumstance made me feel highly uncomfortable accepting a trophy that they should have taken,’ he said.

‘The people of Bilbao who came to the race village and out on the water yesterday have justifiably high expectations for this event and I am sure that, like me, they were confused by Hugo Bosss bizarre end game. Many left wondering how it is that in an event posted as the first V5O battle the clear winner chose to manipulate the outcome through his actions this did not feel at all appropriate despite the obvious apparent benefits to us.’

First place was eventually awarded to French competitor Bernard Stamm.