British sailor Alex Thomson endured frustrating conditions aboard his Open 60 in the closing stages of the Gotland Runt this morning
The Gotland Runt in Sweden gave new meaning to the words ‘drag race to the finish’ as Alex Thomson and team on the Open 6o Hugo Boss drifted across the finish line at an agonisingly slow pace in the RC Grand Open Class. Thomson and team rounded mark 7 some 31 miles from the finish at 21.10 last night and finally drifted across the finish line of the 432 mile race at 04.24 this morning.
Glassy seas, with mirror like reflections, have tested the patience of all the race crews who would prefer to be battered by gale force winds then endure the frustration of being becalmed. The middle part of the race gave some welcome relief as they were satiated with wind strengths of up to 12 knots, which enabled them to sail downwind with spinnakers at a decent pace.
Hugo Boss hit speeds of up to 17.5 knots, but this is nothing in comparison to the 30 plus she is capable of when pushed to the max.
From Stockholm Thomson will continue his European Tour including events in Holland, Kiel, Monaco, Cannes and Palma as well as other major races, such as the Fastnet and the Maxi Yacht Cup in Sardinia. Then later, in October, the Transat Jacques Vabre.
His ultimate plans for this boat include the four-stop solo round the world race, 5 Oceans, before he builds a new boat for the 2008 Vendee Globe. As yet, Thomson has not chosen designer or builder for this new boat, but says: “I am asking questions.”
Knut Frostad and team aboard the 60ft trimaran, Academy, was first boat to cross the Gotland Runt finish line at Skanskobb but was only nine minutes 16 seconds ahead of Bruno Peyron and Steve Ravussin sailing Stena Sovcomflot.
Frostad said it was particularly tricky off Visby where the easterly breeze in the lee of the island left windless holes. ‘We rounded the mark and dove off to leeward very smartly,” said Frostad, ‘we were only three minutes ahead of Nokia, and Stena Sovcomflot was a further five minutes back. We stayed with some wind, but Stena sailed right into the hole and lost another five minutes.”
Frostad was particularly pleased to beat Steve Ravussin and Bruno Peyron in Stena, the boat that replaced Academy as Banque Covefi on the French circuit. Academy was built, to Nigel Irens’ designs in 1991 and three years ago Ravussin had said to Frostad: “You can buy this boat; I want to get rid of it.” No wonder he was smiling when he sprayed the crew from a magnum of Bollinger at the start of the celebrations.
When asked how he had established a one hour lead in the early part of the race, Frostad cheekily replied, “By sailing smartly!” He added, “And by being on the correct side of the course – we went south on the way to Almagrundet and then on the north side of the rhumb line on the next leg. We were lucky on the east side of Gotland, suddenly we lost the boats behind – they must have been caught in a parking lot.”
At one stage, later in the race, all six trimarans were together, “even Bonduelle,” and the race re-started, but Academy, which is two metres narrower than the newer boats found the light going much to her liking.