Yet another canting keeler left to the ocean

Mike Golding rescued Velux 5 Oceans competitor Alex Thomson fromHugo Bosslast night following the fellow Brit’s broken keel catastrophe. Thomson was situated in the Southern Ocean, 1,000 southeast of the Cape of Good Hope, when the transfer from Boss toEcoverbegan at 0635GMT this morning.

The operation took two hours and was carried out in 25kt winds and high seas: Golding described it as a ‘very scary, very tricky pick up.’ Donning a survival suit, Thomson took to his liferaft and drifted free of Boss to allow Golding to manouevre his boat close enough to the liferaft.

Golding reports: ‘We decided not to carry out the transfer until this morning until the sun was well up. We converged again and had a very tricky pick up. Even although there is not a huge amount of wind, there was 20-25 kts, and Alex had to set himself adrift in the liferaft which must have been equally scary. And then I had problems with the throttle controls on the engine, the shear pins in the engine broke when I was trying to manoeuvre and then the gear linkage broke, so pretty much the engine has been a waste of space!’

‘In the end we did get him with the engine. It took four attempts and I am just delighted to have him on board. I think my first words were ‘welcome on board’.

Alex Thomson described his ordeal as: ‘without doubt the most terrifying and emotional experience of my life. This yacht has been my life for three years. It’s wrong to leave her down here and I would have done anything to save her. But to be stranded in big seas 1,000 nautical miles from land, with an irreparable keel which was swinging uncontrollably, I really had no other choice. It was very distressing to look back and see Hugo Boss in such a sorry state. I am hugely grateful to Mike for turning back to rescue me. The operation was fairly hairy and the sea was lumpy which wasn’t very pleasant for either myself or Mike. At one point I caught my hand between the life raft and Ecover and it wasn’t until this point, when I cut my hand, that I thought to myself ‘this is actually quite scarey’. It took four attempts for me to board Mike’s yacht, but all things considered it went very well and I am hugely relieved to be in the warmth and safety of Ecover’s cabin.”

Mike Golding and Ecover will now return to full racing mode and continue sailing towards Fremantle, Australia. Golding has asked Alex Thomson not to assist in any way and will apply for re-dress to the race committee, meaning that Ecover will not be penalized as a result of the rescue. Sadly this is the end of the Velux 5 Oceans for Alex Thomson. His focus will now be to get to dry land safely, and thereafter to his next campaign, to be the first Briton to win the Vendee Globe on his new yacht, scheduled to hit the water this April.