Rescue update on Alex Thomson, and listen to Alex's live audio just before he abandoned ship 24/11/06

At approximately 0635 GMT this morning, Mike Golding completed the successful rescue of Alex Thomson. Both the British skippers are now safe and well onboard Ecover following a tense two hour rescue at first light this morning, close to 850 miles south of South Africa. The dramatic rescue was a text book operation, especially given the harsh and challenging conditions present in the Southern Ocean. The success of the rescue is a testament to the professionalism and bravery of both skippers, as they completed the rescue in winds over 25 knots and large seas. The highly experienced solo skipper Golding, who is on his sixth global circumnavigation, described the crucial minutes of the rescue as ‘very scary at times.’

Just after 0300 GMT, when sunrise came to the desolate expanse of ocean, Alex Thomson, onboard his stricken Open 60 Hugo Boss, began motoring towards Mike Golding’s Open 60, Ecover. Golding, who made contact last night with Thomson, had spent the night monitoring Alex’s safety and keeping a safe distance. At approximately 0500 GMT, Alex Thomson, wearing his survival suit, was ready to deploy his life raft, which he would use to transport himself and a few key belongings over to Ecover. The difficult conditions meant that Thomson had to drift a safe distance from Hugo Boss before Ecover could move in to pick up the young skipper. It took four attempts to get Thomson onboard Ecover due to the sea state and engine problems for Golding.

Just before the rescue operation, an emotional Alex Thomson spoke to his onboard camera listen to live video footage here. Here’s a transcription of the audio: “It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. This boat’s been my life for the past three years and it really doesn’t feel right to be leaving her behind.”

A kitted up Alex then said: “I’ve been through lots of emotion in the last 24 hours and it still gets me every now and again but now is the time for action, not emotion and so the important thing is to get in the raft and onto Ecover as quickly as possible.”

In what he described as a “nasty sea state”, Alex planned to get into the unstable life raft and fire a rocket line thrower to Mike. Thomson also had a handheld radio on deck and so was in constant communication with Mike Golding.

Ecover will now turn back towards Fremantle and focus again on Leg 1 of the Velux 5 Oceans. Golding, who had been setting an impressive pace in second place before turning back to assist Hugo Boss, will receive re-dress for his heroic actions so that he is not penalized or negatively impacted for assisting a fellow competitor in a time of crisis.

The abandonment of Hugo Boss marks the devastating end of the dream for Alex Thomson in his attempt to win the Velux 5 Oceans round the world race.