by Alex Thomson Racing media
It has been a tough start for the Open 60 fleet as they battle through storm force conditions in the North Atlantic. It was a good start in northerly 15 knots for HUGO BOSS as they headed out of Le Havre on Sunday and into the English Channel. As soon as they were into the North Atlantic Alex and Ross made their break, and HUGO BOSS headed north. By Monday afternoon there was a 150-mile north south split throughout the 14 strong fleet.
Brit Air was the first casualty of the race, as they were forced to retire with mast track issues. By Monday afternoon, the boats were bracing themselves for the first big storm of the race so far. There was a clear divide in strategies between the fleet, Vendée Globe winner and race favourite Michel Desjoyeaux onboard Foncia had chosen to dive south, whilst a large section of the pack stayed in the middle. For over a day HUGO BOSS was the only boat that had made the brave decision to head north. “The routing for me is the same as it has been since the English Channel, staying to the north and we’ve hung onto that. To be honest I’d prefer to be closer to the fleet. But we are where we are.”
1876 were the first boat to go into ‘Stealth Mode’ on Tuesday, a new feature of this race, which enables a boat to go ‘off the radar’. It gives a tactical advantage against the rest of the fleet so they can’t see a thier position for 24 hours, allowing them some time to work on the race strategy. For Alex and Ross it was good news when 1876 popped back onto the radar on Wednesday morning just 20 miles to their stern. “I had a phone to say that she has popped up out of her stealth mission and is 20 miles behind us here in the north. If Yves Parlier, one of the great legends of solo sailing has decided to come this way then it obviously means we’re going the right way, or we hope it does anyway!”
Wednesday saw the fleet hit hard by yet more storm force conditions measuring over 40 knots, and gusting to 50 on occasion (that’s over 50 mph!). Speaking from his satellite phone skipper Alex Thomson commented, “It is like an Artemis Transat routing, you reach into the low, tack onto a beat, and as the breeze lifts you reach towards the destination. To be honest, the routings for those to the south says they should be doing the same thing, reaching up and come back down but it looks like they are hard on the breeze in a more westerly wind” The next few days will see the fleet start to head south west, the winds should ease a little before they can expect to tackle the next front.
Life onboard HUGO BOSS will remain hard, Alex and Ross can expect conditions to be more challenging the further north they remain and the unfortunately the confused sea state (over 5 metre wave height) should remain with them for the next few days. Current forecasts suggest that the skippers can’t relax just yet as the fleet looks set to face another big depression over the weekend. The next obstacle on the race course will be the Azores High, which may throw some interesting routing choices ahead and potentially the promise of some faster downwind conditions!
Skipper Alex Thomson speaking from onboard today:
“It was a hard night, we saw gusts of over 47 knots. It wasn’t a great night onboard, but we both made the decision to put the storm jib up and reef down for a few hours. We managed to get a few hours rest, potentially at the cost of miles on the water, but we feel refreshed and the boat is in good shape. We are back up to speed now sailing around 15 – 17 knots, and we will hold onto this as long as possible. We are expecting the breeze to die by 1800 this evening (12.11.09) and we should have a little bit of respite before the next depression hits us! I am still happy with our northerly position, we have the ability to make the turn south into some fast reaching conditions, which will be good. I think that the northerly boats and the boats in the centre will all converge in the next few days and we could all be close. I haven’t looked too much as the southerly route, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Everything is good onboard, the dynamic between Ross and I is working really well, and it's great to see him enjoying the racing.”
1600 GMT position report 12th November 2009
HUGO BOSS: 6th
Speed: 10.2 knots
Position: 48 24.12 N - 26 00.84 W
3710 miles to finish
The Azores High: (also known as North Atlantic High/Anticyclone or the Bermuda High/Anticyclone in the United States), is a large subtropical semi-permanent centre of high atmospheric pressure found near the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean, at the Horse latitudes. It forms one pole of the North Atlantic oscillation, the other being the Icelandic Low. The system influences the weather and climatic patterns of vast areas of North Africa and Europe. The aridity of the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Basin is due to the subsidence of air in the system.
Alex Thomson Racing
Transat Jacques Vabre