Mike Golding and Alex Thomson prepare Southern Ocean transfer 23/11/06

Southern Ocean rescue planned for tomorrow morning – British skippers nervously wait for sunrise to carry out a dramatic transfer.

Mike Golding the solo skipper who has heroically turned back in the Velux 5 Oceans Race to rescue fellow British competitor Alex Thomson, is currently in sight of the stricken Hugo Boss Open 60.

The British pair are deep in the Southern Ocean, 1,000 miles south-east off the Cape of Good Hope.

Following a severe keel failure onboard Thomson’s boat this morning and his subsequent decision to abandon ship, Golding did not hesitate to respond and immediately turn back to assist in an ocean rescue.

At 2030 GMT this evening, Ecover had made contact with Hugo Boss. The harsh weather conditions are typical of the Southern Ocean with sleet, snow and winds over 30 knots, although the sea state is stable. Both skippers have been in regular communication with each other and race control to expedite the rendezvous. Together they have taken the decision to wait for sunrise, expected soon after 0300 GMT, in order to carry out the rescue to ensure the absolute safety of the skippers. This reflects the challenging nature of a dangerous boat-to-boat rescue in the extreme Southern Ocean conditions.

Thomson and Golding are experienced offshore sailors who have trained extensively for such situations and will therefore make responsible and informed decisions on the best course of action. Golding will spend the night monitoring Hugo Boss from a safe distance until they can commence the rescue effort first thing in the morning.

Once the rescue is complete and the skippers are safe, Golding can return to full racing mode again back to Fremantle. He will ask Thomson not to assist in any way and will apply for re-dress to the race committee, meaning that Ecover will not be penalized as a result of the rescue.

The event is raced over three legs, with the winner determined by overall elapsed time, and Golding’s time will be altered to take into account his courageous rescue. Sadly, this marks the end of the Ultimate Solo Challenge for Thomson.