After leading the Barcelona World Race since the first full day of racing, for most of 14 days and having recently extended their lead on the water to what the skippers estimated to be around 60 miles, pre-race favourites Alex Thomson and Pepe Ribes on their IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss, were dismasted on last night (Wednesday) in the South Atlantic ocean in relatively moderate wind conditions.
The English-Spanish duo are heading to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, under engine. Making around 6 knots with enough to fuel to get most of the 370 miles west to the Brazilian port should which should take around three days. The duo had already set a new record in the Mediterranean for the passage from Barcelona to Gibraltar and a course record to the Equator.
Thomson, 40, and Ribes, 43, were making a sail change when it is believed that the central pin in the headsail furling drum sheared while the British skipper was right beside it, leaving the mast unsupported from the front of the boat. He had to watch helplessly as the mast and sails fell backwards, the mast itself breaking after it landed resting half on the boat and half out.
Stewart Hosford, Director of Alex Thomson Racing, explained what happened:
” The guys were both on deck. They were putting the jib top up and taking the J1 (headsail) off. Alex was up on the foredeck, Pepe was at the mast helping him out. The furling drum, which holds the J2 to the deck and is a fixed stay sheared, the main steel pin in the drum sheared, and so because they were in the middle of changing from the J1 to the J2 there was only one forestay up at that time, for that brief period. That meant the furling drum was unsupported. Alex said that it was like slow motion from there, the mast fell backwards into the water and rested on the stanchions and the daggerboard. At that point the mast broke. And it was gone pretty much immediately. It did not break on the way down. It ended up sitting half in the boat and half out and at that point it broke. There is none of the mast left.”