Alex Thomson is struggling to fix electronics problems that are threatening his bid to win the Vendée Globe race
British sailor Alex Thomson has a fight on his hands to try to make up the 34-mile deficit on the leader of the Vendée Globe race – and the main part of that fight is with exhaustion.
Thomson sounded dejected and dog-tired this morning as he gave two short telephone interviews to waiting press. His makeshift anemometer on the stern of the boat has stopped working, which means that he cannot use his autopilot on wind angle mode.
This means he is severely handicapped over the final stretch of the race, when the wind is shifty, until or unless he can rewire and fix. He and his technical team are working on this.
Because he has had to hand steer so much, Thomson has not been able to sleep, and has little prospect of rest until a solution is found.
“I don’t think I can catch Armel,” he said. “The routing is very clear – we will go nearly to the Scilly Isles, wait for a left shift and when it comes we tack. There are no real options for me any more, I think my options have run out.
“It might be possible to catch a few miles but it’s difficult for me at the moment. Until I can get my autopilot driving on a wind angle it’ll be very tricky in the conditions I have. I can’t imagine another few days like the last couple of days.
“I don’t have any tension about the finish. I have tension about trying to make the autopilots work. I’ve got an anemometer in my hand and I’m trying to splice wires. I don’t care about the finish right now, I just want to sleep.”
But his team sounded punchier about his prospect. It could be that his best chance of making up those miles will come tonight, when an expected wind shift to the north-east will trigger a tack over on to port. The timing of this is all-important. Too soon and the skippers would lose miles quickly. Left too late, they will effectively be overstanding the mark.
So it may well be that, after more than 24,000 miles, the final result hinges on the timing of this one tack.
But there are plenty of other things to reflect on. Earlier today, I spoke to Alex’s colleague and team managing director, Stewart Hosford, about Alex’s prospects, how the breakage of his port foil has handicapped him and what comes next for the campaign. Listen to the video above to hear what he had to say.
Listen to Alex’s father, Pete, taking about his son, his character and the Vendée Globe rollercoaster. Thanks to Julie Skentelbery of BBC Radio Cornwall for this lovely interview