Monday, 3 January 2011

BWR: Alex Thomson Racing team celebrates Barcelona World Race start with substitute skipper on board

Andy Meiklejohn and Wouter Verbraak wave goodbye as they start the Barcelona World Race. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/LloydImages.

by Alex Thomson Racing media

It was a day of mixed emotions for record-breaking British skipper Alex Thomson as he wished his team success in the non-stop 90 day round the world epic Barcelona World Race from his hospital bedside as the fleet set sail.

Alex’s entry was thrown into doubt following emergency surgery for acute appendicitis just 48 hours before the race start, but after an agonising wait it was ruled by the Race Organisation (FNOB) that the team’s substitute skipper Wouter Verbraak could sail the HUGO BOSS IMOCA 60 alongside Andy Meiklejohn for the first days of the race until Alex is considered medically fit to join the boat.

After a rainy start to the race, the skies cleared and the weather became milder, however out on the course there was still very little wind. While this was good for the spectator boats able to enjoy watching the fleet for longer, for the skippers the first hour was tactically more demanding. In the first eight miles of this 28,000 mile voyage, race places were already being exchanged.

The first hurdle is to exit the Mediterranean as fast as possible, negotiating the variable weather systems created by the close proximity of major land masses. The skippers are expected to take this stage easy while they acclimatise to life on board together.

Alex Thomson said: “I’m devastated to miss the race start but thrilled that HUGO BOSS is able to compete from the start and I would like to thank everyone who has made this possible - from FNOB to the Barcelona World Race medical team. I can’t wait to join Andy as soon as I’m fit to sail and am confident in Wouter to see the boat through the first phase of this journey.”

The decision allowing Alex to join the race after the start was agreed by FNOB after consultation with independent adjudicators and the IMOCA Class Association, when they reviewed the unlikely event that the skipper is unable to begin the race so close to the start. With the majority backing of the other skippers, FNOB issued an amendment to the race rules for this unique circumstance, enabling the team to compete at the race start on 31st December.

Stewart Hosford, Alex Thomson Racing Team Director, said: “In light of the unforeseeable circumstances we are delighted that the team has been able to start the race as planned. We are very fortunate to have Wouter Verbaak stepping in temporarily for Alex and are very optimistic that a podium position is still achievable.”

Wouter Verbraak - substitute skipper on HUGO BOSS for Alex Thomson. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/LLoyd Images.

Wouter Verbraak, substitute skipper, said: “The Barcelona World Race was a goal of mine, so I’m looking forward to this amazing opportunity to sail with long-time friend Andy Meiklejohn as Alex’s substitute until he can join the race.

“The HUGO BOSS yacht is great to sail and Andy and I compliment each other well on board. The preparation for the race by the team has been amazing so we’re well equipped for the task ahead.”

Andy Meiklejohn, co-skipper, said: “It has been a tough week with Alex’s sudden illness, but having Wouter as the substitute skipper is the best possible solution to the situation. Having sailed together before we have a strong bond, which will help us overcome the initial challenge. We’re fully focused on the task ahead and look forward to Alex stepping on board the HUGO BOSS boat as soon as he’s fit to sail.”

Alex Thomson Racing
Barcelona World Race