Thomson, one of the favourites in the VELUX 5 OCEANS race, was almost neck and neck with second placed Mike GOLDING (GBR) when the incident happened, with just one nautical mile separating the two boats. He was sailing downwind, around 1,000 nautical miles south of Cape Town, South Africa, with three reefs in the mainsail in order to avoid over powering the boat.
THOMSON issued this statement, 'I was in my bunk grabbing a quick power kip when I was suddenly thrown across the cabin as the boat broached. I ran up on deck and went to ease the mainsail but nothing happened. I then went to try and cant the keel, but again nothing happened. By this stage the boat was leaning right over on its side with the spreaders in the water, so I went back down below to look inside the keel box. The section which attaches the rams to the keel had completely snapped off and the keel was swinging freely. I went back up on deck with the boat still on its side. I took all of the sails down and finally the boat righted itself.'
'I can't believe it, I am absolutely gutted. I have learnt so much already in this race about how hard to push the boat and when to hold back, in order to maintain the right balance between speed and safety. To have a problem with my keel at this critical stage in the race, something which I have no control over, is absolutely devastating.'
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.
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