Alex Thomson – the British solo skipper leading the IMOCA 60 class in the Route du Rhum transatlantic race from France to Guadeloupe – is limping towards the finish over the final fifty miles of the 3,500-mile course after running his boat Hugo Boss aground on the northern tip of Grande Terre island.
The grounding incident reportedly took place at 2145 local time (0145 UTC/0245 CET) just south of the lighthouse at Grande Vigie on La Pointe à Claude where Thomson’s boat ran on to rocks at the base of steep cliffs.
The British skipper who has led the race for over 11 days since leaving St. Malo on November 4 had to lower the boat’s sails before starting his engine to get himself off the rocks.
Although Thomson himself is not reporting any injuries his boat is believed to have sustained significant damage. The crash box in the bow is damaged and has taken in water but this is contained by the forward bulkhead. The boat’s bowsprit and starboard foil are also damaged. The boat’s canting keel and its control system are certainly also affected but it has not been possible to establish a more precise diagnosis during the hours of darkness.
After resealing his engine prop shaft Thomson is continuing to race towards the finish line in Pointe-à-Pitre. A safety boat has been sent and will accompany Hugo Boss in case it is needed.
The International Jury was immediately informed of the incident by the race committee and it will file a protest against Thomson for the use of his engine during the race. What penalty could be applied is unclear at this stage.
At 0744 UTC this morning Thomson had 32 miles to run to Pointe-à-Pitre with a little under 200-mile lead over his French rival Paul Meilhat on SMA in second place.