Alex Thomson explains sequence of events which led to him having to head back port after 5 Oceans Race start 24/10/06

Just 27 hours into the Velux 5 Oceans race, British skipper Alex Thomson has experienced gear failure on his Open 60 Hugo Boss. He has been forced to turn his boat round and head back to port, in order to carry out the repairs.

The incident happened at approximately 14.50 BST yesterday while heading upwind in 50 knots of breeze.

Thomson explains: “The top of the headsail started to unfurl itself in about 50 knots of breeze. I was below deck at the time and instantly realised there was a problem. As the sail started to open it knocked the boat flat and by the time I got up on deck the top of the sail had completely shredded. I am now unable to sail upwind because every time I try to do so, the sail starts to unfurl itself and knocks the boat flat again.”

Thomson is unhurt, but given the conditions, it is impossible for him to continue sailing. He has therefore decided to head for Gijon, in North Spain, where he hoped to arrive lst night.

“I am obviously disappointed,” says Thomson, “but I have no other option than to suspend racing in order to carry out the necessary repair and continue in the Velux 5 Oceans. I am just glad this happened early on in the race before I was too far offshore.”