Hugo Boss takes second

Fantastic result for Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill in the Transat Jacques Vabre

Friday November 18th 2011, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: Costa Rica

Alex Thomson and his Spanish co-skipper Guillermo Altadill sailed Hugo Boss across the finish line off Puerto Limon, Costa Rica this evening at 23:20:20 UTC to finish the 10th Transat Jacques Vabre in second place in the IMOCA 60 Class.

Hugo Boss completed the 4,730 miles theoretical course distance in 16 days 9 hours 20 minutes 0 sec at an average speed of 12.03 knots. They finished 15 hrs 4 mins 6 secs after winners Jean Pierre Dick and Jérémie Beyou on Virbac Paprec 3, who arrved in first place this morning.

Second place in the Transat Jacques marks a significant return to form for Alex Thomson who has long held a reputation for being one of the fastest skippers in the IMOCA Open 60 class, but who has suffered with a succession of boat failures and disappointments in recent years. In the 2009 Transat Jacques Vabre he had to retire after suffering hull damage early in the race, north of the Azores.

Thomson went back to basics for this race, taking an older-Farr designed boat, rather than his more powerful, heavier Juan K-designed 60. This boat won last year’s solo Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale as Veolia Environnement in the hands of Roland Jourdain and as BT under skipper Seb Josse led the 2008-9 Vendée Globe and also the 2009 TJV, but finished neither and in fact was all but destroyed in the race two years ago after its cabin top was smashed in by a wave and the boat was abandoned. Thomson co-skippered for Roland Jourdain finishing second in the 2003 TJV on Jourdain’s Sill which subsequently became Thomson's first Hugo Boss, best known as the outright 24 hour singlehanded monohull distance record holder.

The partnership with Spain’s vastly experienced Guillermo Altadill – who has eight round the world races on his CV including record breaking maxi-multihulls has proven an inspired choice. Altadill raced the first Barcelona World Race on this same IMOCA 60, as Estrella Damm, when they retired, but the Spanish sailor knows the Farr 60 well and has hundreds of thousands of ocean racing miles under his belt.

Hugo Boss led this Transat Jacques Vabre for nearly 24 hours before becoming firmly installed in second place on 7 November. Thereafter having built a solid lead on third place, the leading duo were never challenged.

"It has been a long day, but it is fantastic to finish in second place for sure," commented Thomson on his arrival. "It was very enjoyable and Guillermo did a great job. It was difficult race, but I think we are both agreed that it is better to go the hard way than sit for two days with the sails flapping. Physically it was not too bad for us, the big thing for us was that we did not sleep very much.

"We sailed together since May and we trained before on the Juan K boat which is like 100 times harder than this boat, it was easy compared to the other one and Guillermo is a fantastic sailor who has done more miles than any of us put together. I think we got on well. We are both happy to say what we think and we had no problem with that.

Altadill said: "I think we are more similar in character and Alex has the solo experience so we have very complementary experiences, a double handed is still having a lack of people"

Thomson: "We took a similar strategy and ended up in the same place. For us this boat lacks a little pace. We were really just waiting for an opportunity, hoping there would be an opportunity close to here, but there wasn’t. They put too many miles on. JP Dick and Jeremie sailed a fantastic race, three times winner – bravo."

Altadill: "When we come out of the second low we were first, which was good, when you play hard and come out on top, that feels good and then the worst was probably this last day, the last 150 miles have been horrible, you did not know what the wind was going to do."

Thomson: "We always thought it was possible to win the race. When you take the risk to go into the hard weather you are always a little nervous and it does not look very good. We had one small breakage which maybe cost us 20-30 miles but I don’t think the boat had the pace to beat Virbac Paprec 3. if they had sailed a different strategy then maybe we could have won. I am ecstatic. A big thank you to Guillermo."

The race of Hugo Boss

The Transat Jacques Vabre of Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill carries the early hallmarks of a duo finding their feet together, never having done an ocean race together as duo and only having had the boat for 12 days on the water before the start in Le Havre on 2 November.

They started relatively conservatively leaving the Channel in sixth and seventh place, concentrating on being with the main pack, pacing themselves initially. As the pack passed to the south of Ireland they were seventh of the 13 starters.

As PRB, Safran and Virbac Paprec held slightly north, Hugo Boss was still just to the south of them having risen to fourth, chasing Chéminées Poujoulat.

Going through the initial ridge they were well positioned, still not extreme, but then made their move progressively with Virbac Paprec 3 northeast of the Azores setting up for the successive big low pressure systems. They are rewarded with the race lead over 6-7 November. Rivals Cheminées Poujoulat and PRB suffered damage and had to retire. And the pack which stayed south of the Azores high pressure to try and find trade winds initially lost out. From there it became a two boat drag race across the Atlantic, Hugo Boss hanging relentlessly on to the coattails of Virbac-Paprec 3, some 35-45 miles behind.

By the entrance to the Caribbean the gap has only stretched to 82 miles and at the finish today, Hugo Boss was approximately 112 miles behind the race winners.

Thomson and Altadill reported no major problems with the boat, finishing with a undamaged complete sail inventory. After the first low pressure system they had a couple of hours downtime after they broke a lazy jack and consequently had to replace a mainsail batten, apart from a computer gremlin or two, it has been an uneventful race.

Thomson has commented how tired they both have been, a consequence of not knowing the boat well and so being more on edge, the physical need to push incredibly hard with an older generation boat, which is not rated as one of the quickest in the fleet and also the fact the boat is not well fitted out to facilitate good rest.

After retiring from the 2008-9 Vendée Globe and then the 2009 Transat Jacques Vabre with hull damage and missing out on the 2010-11 Barcelona World Race when his infant son was diagnosed with a heart condition, this is the first major IMOCA 60 race that Thomson has finished since spring 2008 when with Andrew Cape he finished second in the Barcelona World Race behind Jean Pierre Dick and Damian Foxall.

 

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