Team director Stewart Horsford and Alex Thomson explain what happened and why Hugo Boss lost her mast
Having crashed out of the Barcelona World Race while leading the race and with the team having declared that they had spent plenty of time preparing for the race, the big question is what failed?
Stewart Hosford, Director of Alex Thomson Racing, explained what happened:
“The guys [Thomson, 40, and Ribes, 43] were both on deck. They were putting the jib top up and taking the J1 (headsail) off. Alex was up on the foredeck, Pepe was at the mast helping him out. The furling drum failed, which holds the J2 to the deck and is a fixed stay sheared. The main steel pin in the drum sheared, and so because they were in the middle of changing from the J1 to the J2, there was only one forestay up for that brief period. That meant the furling drum was unsupported. Alex said that it was like slow motion from there as the mast fell backwards into the water and rested on the stanchions and the daggerboard. At that point the mast broke. And it was gone pretty much immediately. It did not break on the way down. It ended up sitting half in the boat and half out and at that point it broke. There is none of the mast left.
“Then they cut the mast free. They are unharmed. That is the most important thing. They called us. We called race direction. We went into crisis mode. We came up with a plan fairly quickly, to start their engine and start motoring towards Brazil. That is what they are currently heading. They were 370 miles from Salvador de Bahia when they started the engine. Now (1300hrs UTC Thursday) they are 320 miles from Salvador, and they have enough fuel to pretty much get themselves there. We have two crew flying there already. It is an 18 hour flight from here. They will meet them on a tender to bring them into the port. The boat is undamaged. There is a bent stanchion and a scratch on the coachroof. The boat is secured and seaworthy.”
Thomson and Ribes had been sailing in moderate easterly breezes and big seas when the accident happened, right before his eyes. Thomson recalls:
“I was looking backwards as Pepe was bringing a sail to me to plug in behind me and all of a sudden I saw this just break. The (furling) drum just blew up in the air and the sail with it. I looked up and instinctively I knew the mast was going to fall down. It kind of hovered there for a few seconds and then fell backwards into the water. Within a couple of minutes the mast broke in two where it was hinged over the boat. Pepe did a great job with the grinder cutting it away before the mast made a hole inside the boat in the big waves we had. It is extremely disappointing. We were leading the race by 60 miles, and had broken the record to Gibraltar. We felt we were in control of the race. Yes we had made a couple of minor mistakes, but really we were performing brilliantly. I am disappointed for our team, for Pepe, for all of us. It is heart wrenching when these things happen.”
By 1600hrs UTC Thursday Hugo Boss was at 280 miles west of Salvador de Bahia, making 6.3kts.