Saturday, November 25, 2006
British solo sailor Alex Thomson was rescued from his crippled yacht on the icy Southern Ocean by another competitor who turned back in heavy waves and wind. Mike Golding picked up Mr. Thomson at daybreak about 1,600 kilometres southeast of Africa's Cape of Good Hope. Race organizers said it took four tries and nearly two hours for Mr. Thomson to make it from the stricken Hugo Boss to Mr. Golding's boat in a life raft because of waves and 40-kilometre-an-hour winds. “This has been without doubt the most terrifying and emotional experience of my life," Mr. Thomson said in a statement from organizers of the Velux 5 Oceans solo around-the-world race. Mr. Thomson, dressed in a survival suit, had to get into his life raft and allow it to drift away from his damaged vessel before Mr. Golding could approach and pick him up.The two are now headed toward finish of the race's first leg, in Fremantle, Australia. The statement said Mr. Golding asked Mr. Thomson not to participate in sailing, or help in any other way, due to the single-handed nature of the race. Mr. Golding, aboard Ecover, will be credited with the time he lost due to the rescue, race officials said. Mr. Thomson had been closing in on Mr. Golding when his keel system failed. The yachts in the nearly 56,000-kilometre race have canting keels, which use hydraulic rams to swing the keel up to 40 degrees off the boat's centerline, reducing the boat's lean and improving performance. “I was in my bunk grabbing a quick power kip [nap] when I was suddenly thrown across the cabin as the boat broached,” Mr. Thomson said in a statement. “The boat was leaning right over on its side with the [mast] spreaders in the water.”
Alex ThomsonAfter attempting repairs, Mr. Thomson, who was not hurt, decided to abandon his craft. As of early Friday, defending champion Bernard Stamm was leading the race, followed by Mr. Golding, Kojiro Shiraishi, Robin Knox-Johnston, Graham Dalton and Unai Basurko. The fleet left Bilbao, Spain, on Oct. 22. The yachts are scheduled to finish the first leg in early December. The race is set to finish in Bilbao in April. The race has been has been staged every four years since 1982.