Hugo Boss takes second place in Transat Jacques Vabre

Hugo Boss finishes second - Transat Jacques Vabre 2011
© Alexis Courcoux
In the Transat Jacques Vabre at 23hrs 20 mins 0 secs UTC, 17hrs 20 mins 00secs local time on Friday evening, Alex Thompson (GBR) and Guillermo Altadill (ESP) sailed Hugo Boss across the finish line in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica to complete the 10th edition of the race in second place in the IMOCA Open 60 Class.

Hugo Boss completed the 4730 miles theoretical course distance in 16 days 9 hours 20 minutes 0 sec at an average speed of 12,03kts. They finished 15 hrs four minutes and six seconds after Jean Pierre Dick and Jérémie Beyou on Virbac Paprec 3 who crossed first this morning.

Second place in this biennial classic ocean race which started from Le Havre on Wednesday November 2nd at 1302hrs is a significant return to form for Thomson who has long held a reputation for being one of the fastest skippers in the IMOCA Open 60 class, but who has suffered with a succession of boat failures and disappointments in recent years. In the last edition of the race, 2009, he had to retire after suffering hull damage early in the race, north of the Azores.

Thomson went back to basics for this race, taking an older Farr designed boat, rather than his more powerful, heavier design which he had built specifically for him. This boat won last year’s solo Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale from St Malo to Guadeloupe and lead the 2008-9 Vendée Globe and also the 2009 edition of this race but finished neither. The British skipper partnered Roland Jourdain to second place in this race in 2003 on Jourdain’s Sill and has set two outright 24 hour distance records during his career in IMOCA Open 60’s.

The partnership with Spain’s vastly experienced Guillermo Altadill – who has eight round the world races on his CV including record breaking maxi multiuhulls as well as the development of this IMOCA Open 60 – has proven an inspired choice. Altadill raced the first Barcelona World Race on the boat but had to retire but knows the design well and has hundreds of thousands of ocean racing miles under his belt.

Hugo Boss lead the race for nearly 24 hours before becoming firmly installed in second place on 7th November. Thereafter having built a solid lead on third place, the leading duo were never challenged.

Alex Thomson : It has been a long day, fantastic to finish in second place for sure. It was very enjoyable and Guillermo did a great job. It was difficult race but I think we are both agreed that it is better to go the hard way than sit for two days with the sails going flap. Physically it was not too bad for us, the big thing for us was that we did not sleep very much.

Hugo Boss finishes second - Transat Jacques Vabre 2011
© Alexis Courcoux

Guillermo Altadill : Just normal damage, the boat was perfect in these conditions When we were sailing the first week it was awesome.

Alex: We sailed together since May and we trained before on the Juan K boat which is like 100 times harder than this boat, it was easy compared to the other one and Guillermo is a fantastic sailor who has done more miles than any of us put together I think we got on well. We are both happy to say what we think and we had no problem with that.

Guillermo: I think we are more similar in character and Alex has the solo experience so we have very complementary experiences, a double handed is still having a lack of people.

Alex : We took a similar strategy and ended up in the same place. For us this boat lacks a little pace. We were really just waiting for an opportunity, hoping there would be an opportunity close to here, but there wasn’t. They put too many miles on

JP Dick and Jeremie sailed a fantastic race, three times winner – bravo.

Guillermo : When we come out of the second low we were first, which was good, when you play hard and come out on top, that feels good and then the worst was probably this last day, the last 150 miles have been horrible, you did not know what the wind was going to do.

Alex : We always thought it was possible to win the race. When you take the risk to go into the hard weather you are always a little nervous and it does not look very good. We had one small breakage which maybe cost us 20-30 miles but I don’t think the boat had the pace to beat Virbac Paprec 3. if they had sailed a different strategy then maybe we could have won.

Alex : I am ecstatic. A big thank you to Guillermo.

The Transat Jacques Vabre of Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill carries the early hallmarks of a duo finding their feet together, never having done an ocean race together as duo and only having had the boat for twelve days on the water before the start in Le Havre on 2nd November.

Hugo Boss finishes second - Transat Jacques Vabre 2011
© Alexis Courcoux

So they start relatively conservatively leaving the Channel in sixth and seventh place, concentrating on being with the main pack, pacing themselves initially. As the pack passed to the south of Ireland they were seventh of the 13 starters.

As PRB, Safran and Virbac Paprec held slightly north, Hugo Boss was still just to the south of them having risen to fourth, chasing Chéminées Poujoulat.

Going through the initial high pressure ridge they were well positioned, still not extreme but then made their move progressively with Virbac Paprec 3 NE of the Azores setting up for the successive big low pressure systems. They are rewarded with the race lead between the sixth and seventh of November. Rivals Cheminées Poujoulat and PRB suffer dmage and have to retire.

And the pack have stayed south at the Azores high pressure to try and find trade winds and initially lose. From there it becomes a two boat drag race across the Atlantic. Hugo Boss hang relentlessly to the wake of Virbac-Paprec 3, some 35-45 miles behind.

By the entrance to the Caribbean the gap has only stretched to 82 miles and at the finish today, Hugo Boss was approximately 112 miles behind the race winners.

Thomson and Altadill reported no major problems with the boat, finishing with a unharmed complete sail inventory. After the first low pressure system they had a couple of hours downtime after they broke a lazy jack and consequently had to replace a mainsail batten, apart from a computer gremlin or two, it has been an uneventful race.

Thomson has commented how tired they both have been, a consequence of not knowing the boat well and so being more on edge, the physical need to push incredibly hard with a boat which is not rated as one of the quickest in the fleet and also the fact the boat is not well fitted out to facilitate good rest.

After retiring from the 2008-9 Vendée Globe and then the 2009 Transat Jacques Vabre with hull damage NE of the Azores and missing out on the 2010-11 Barcelona World Race when his infant son was diagnosed with a heart condition, this is the first major IMOCA Open 60 race that Thomson has finished since spring 2008 when he finished second behind Jean Pierre Dick and Damian Foxall.

Transat Jacques Vabre Website