British skipper Alex Thomson shares his views about the latest stage of the race
“With most of the boats now around Cape Horn, the skippers, their shore teams and families will be feeling like a weight has lifted from their shoulders. Steve White passed the horn yesterday and is making fantastic progress north leaving the Falklands to port.
Steve is doing an amazing job – considering his lack of funding and subsequent very late preparation. I sincerely hope he makes it to the finish without any major issues. The next 5 days or so for him could be very variable until he passes Rio and makes it into the NE trade winds; which although upwind, will be more preferable than the conditions he could see on the way up to Rio.
I was at the Boat Show at Excel on Sunday and was very lucky to have a good chat with Brian Thompson on the phone, and a short chat with Sam Davis on the video conference (pictured). Sam has had a tough time in the last couple of days, losing mile after mile to Marc on Safran who still has 50 hours of redress up his sleave from his assistance to Yann Ellies. Sam was obviously frustrated but looked and sounded great. Marc has managed to sneak up the inside of her, close to the coast but Sam is to the east and I hope will see the trade winds first and make some of those miles back. She is doing a great job out there and is having fun at the same time.
Brian was on good form too despite having lost miles for sheltering from the storm as he went past Cape Horn. This was a very sensible decision in my opinion especially given the structural issues that Brian has had to deal with onboard. He stated that he feels very lucky as every time he has had some structural issues the wind has dropped allowing him to repair the boat as best he can onboard. Obviously these issues have reduced his confidence of the boat and he talked about trying not to load the boat up fully by sailing with less ballast and therefore less sail area. Given that some of the issues are in the bow, Brian did sound a little nervous about entering the trade winds and having to sail upwind for 10 days. He really has to nurse his big fat beast to the finish.
Dee is quite simply doing an unbelievable job considering that she has a sieve for a mainsail! Having rounded Cape Horn and survived one of the harshest storms in the process, if I were Dee I would be confident of making it all the way now – with or without the mainsail! One thing that I am not sure everyone understands is that the mainsail supports the mast and if she has no mainsail, she will have to sail with much smaller headsails and therefore less power.
She is currently very close to Brian on Pindar and she will want to stay close and have the ability to attack when possible. She is planning to try to repair the mainsail by cutting up her Code 5 and sticking this material to the mainsail. I am told the size of the patches will be 4m x 4m which is enormous and I struggle to see how she will get a patch on that big without taking the mainsail off. The problem is how do you get the main flat to stick it on? Capey and I did a lot of repairs during the BWR and they were all super difficult and nothing the size of Dee’s repair. She is doing a wicked job out there and also enjoying it, fingers crossed she can get a good repair done and chase Brian to the finish.”