The final operation to retrieve THOMSON off his stricken Open 60 took approximately two hours. The vastly experienced solo skipper GOLDING who is on his sixth global circumnavigation described the crucial minutes of the rescue as 'very scary at times.' The rescue took place approximately 1,000 miles southeast of the Cape of Good Hope, deep in the Southern Ocean. The winds were around 25 knots but the high seas prevented close contact between the two Open 60 yachts.
Wearing his survival suit THOMSON took to his life raft and had to drift free of Hugo Boss before GOLDING could manoeuvre Ecover close enough to get close to the life raft.
'We decided not to carry out the transfer until this morning until the sun was well up. We converged again and had a very tricky pick up. Very scary, very tricky pick up. Even although there is not a huge amount of wind, 20-25 knots of wind and Alex had to set himself adrift in the life raft which must have been equally scary. And then I had problems with the throttle controls on the engine, then the shear pins in the engine broke when I was trying to manoeuvre and then the gear linkage broke, so pretty much the engine has been a waste of space!'
GOLDING explained, 'In the end we did get him with the engine. It took four attempts and I am just delighted to have him on board.
'I think my first words were 'welcome on board'.
'Alex says he slept like a log and I woke him up with the phone when the time came. On the other hand I spent most of the night playing Solitaire.
'I just was too nervous. I knew it was going to be a tricky day. Even with the bright orange canopy on the liferaft, you did not have to go far away before you started losing [visual] contact with him.
'It took four attempts. The plan was not for him to be adrift from the boat [Hugo Boss] but in the end I was having all sorts of difficulties manoeuvring the boat because of the engine troubles and there was a danger of the two boats coming together. So I effectively had to do the rescue from the helm but had to keep leaping below to adjust the throttle controls and then when the time came I had to use the kill switch to stop the engine, but I am just delighted to have him on board.'
THOMSON made the following statement from onboard Ecover, 'This has been without doubt the most terrifying and emotional experience of my life. This yacht has been my life for three years. It's wrong to leave her down here and I would have done anything to save her. But to be stranded in big seas 1,000 nautical miles from land, with an irreparable keel which was swinging uncontrollably, I really had no other choice.
'It was really distressing to look back and see Hugo Boss in such a sorry state. I am hugely grateful to Mike for turning back to rescue me. The operation was fairly hairy and the sea was lumpy which wasn't very pleasant for either myself or Mike. At one point I caught my hand between the life raft and Ecover and it wasn't until this point when I cut my hand that I thought to myself 'this is actually quite scary'. It took four attempts for me to board Mike's yacht, but all things considered it went very well and I am hugely relieved to be in the warmth and safety of Ecover's cabin.'
The first leg of the VELUX 5 OCEANS started on 22 October from Bilbao, Spain. Six international skippers crossed the start line in the Bay of Biscay bound for Fremantle, Western Australia. The leg is expected to take approximately six weeks with the first boat arriving in Australia around the first week in December.
The VELUX 5 OCEANS is the longest race for any individual in any sport. Over the first few days, the fleet will make their way along the northern coast of Spain to Cape Finistère where they will turn south towards the Southern Ocean. However, all of the skippers know that this race is a marathon and not a sprint. During the 30,000 miles sailed in the VELUX 5 OCEANS race, the yachts will encounter some of the most extreme sea and weather conditions on the planet.
For a complete list of all the news about the VELUX 5 OCEANS 2006-2007 CLICK HERE.