Friday 31 December 2010

BWR: Alex Thomson to Compete in Barcelona World Race

Alex Thomson (HUGO BOSS) in hospital and in bed on the eve of the race start. Image copyright Barcelona World Race.

by Alex Thomson Racing media

Record-breaking British skipper Alex Thomson is to fulfil his dream to compete again in the 80 day round the world epic Barcelona World Race after his entry was thrown into doubt following emergency surgery for acute appendicitis just two days before the race start on New Year’s Eve.

Today his team announced that substitute skipper Wouter Verbraak will sail yacht HUGO BOSS alongside Andy Meiklejohn for the first several days of the race until Alex Thomson has recovered enough to join the boat. Alex, who is expected to have made a full recovery within two weeks, is due to take the helm alongside Andy at the first opportunity once he has been passed fit.

This decision allowing Alex to join the race after the start on December 31st was agreed by the Race Organisation (FNOB) after consultation with independent adjudicators and The IMOCA Class. The Notice of Race allows for a replacement skipper to be nominated in the event that either of the skippers must retire from the race for certain exceptional medical circumstances. No provision existed within the current race regulations in the unlikely event that the skipper is unable to begin the race so close to the start. After careful consideration and with the full backing of the other IMOCA skippers, the Race Organisation will issue an amendment to the race rules for this one unique circumstance relating to Alex Thomson and his team’s entry in the Barcelona World Race.

Alex Thomson said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking part in the race after such a devastating setback so close to the start and would like to thank everyone who has made this possible from the Race Organisation to the excellent Barcelona World Race medical team. I am lucky to have a talented skipper such as Wouter on standby and I’m confident in his abilities to see HUGO BOSS through the first phase of the journey alongside Andy.”

Wouter Verbaak is one of Holland’s most talented sailors and an expert navigator with over 10 years experience in offshore racing, including the 2008/09 Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) for Team Russia and Navigator in 2009 VOR for Delta Lloyd.

Stewart Hosford, Alex Thomson Racing Director, said: “We are delighted the team is able to start the race as planned, and we are very fortunate to have substitute skipper Wouter Verbaak stepping in for Alex. Wouter has worked with our team for some time and is well known and trusted by both Alex and Andy.

The setback has of course been a huge disappointment for Alex but the team have every confidence in Wouter taking on the challenge and working with Andy to complete a successful first phase of the journey. Throughout this Alex has remained determined to take part so the news that this is now possible is fantastic. Our focus is now on his swift recovery as we cheer on Andy and Wouter as they set off tomorrow.”

It is thanks to Alex’s fast acting team and medical staff for ensuring his symptoms were diagnosed so quickly and an operation performed immediately. Had it not been detected and Alex had started the race, the consequences of this could well have been fatal. He is now recovering and whilst bitterly disappointed about not being at the start he is in good spirits as he looks forward to joining Andy as soon as possible.

Alex Thomson

Alex Thomson set a new 24hr monohull World Speed Record in December 2008 covering 501.3 nm in 24 hours during the Barcelona World Race. At 25, Alex Thomson became the youngest skipper ever to win a round the world race - the Clipper Race 1998/99.

During the solo VELUX 5 Oceans in 2006 Alex's yacht HUGO BOSS suffered keel failure, forcing him to abandon ship in the Southern Ocean and retire from the race. However, sailing with co skipper Andrew Cape, Alex finished second in the Barcelona World Race in 2007. In 2008 Alex competed in the Vendée Globe as one of the race favourites. However, only 3 weeks before the Vendée was due to commence, a French fishing vessel dramatically struck Alex on his delivery to Les Sables D’Olonne. His team fought against the clock to finish the repairs in record time to achieve the impossible - and get Alex to the start line.

Alex’s dreams to become the first Briton to win the much coveted title were shattered after only 3 days racing; when he discovered HUGO BOSS was letting in water. Devastated, Alex announced his retirement from the Vendée. Alex is determined to return and compete in the 2012 Vendée, and achieve his dream to become the first Briton to win the Vendée Globe.

In preparation for this Alex will compete in the 2010 edition of The Barcelona World Race, alongside his New Zealand co-skipper Andy Meiklejohn.

Alex Thomson World Record details:
Record: 60ft Monohull 24 Hour World Record
Yacht: HUGO BOSS Open 60.
Names: Alex Thomson and Andrew Cape
Start position: 42deg 04.83'S; 5deg 58.56'W at15.30 on 06/12/07
Finish position: 43deg 58.82'S; 5deg 09.80' E at 15.30 on 07/12/07
Dates: 6th to 7th December 2007
Distance sailed: 501.3 nm
Average speed: 20.9 kts

Alex Thomson Racing