Homage paid to Alex Thomson's "keel walk"
On the final strait towards the start of the Barcelona World Race the teams are ticking off different phases of preparation. One of these is an essential part of promoting the team: the photo shoot with the skippers aboard their yachts, the incredible IMOCA 60s. The Neutrogena team have added a splash of creativity with portraits of Guillermo Altadill and José Muñoz emulating the “keel walk” made famous by Alex Thomson.
Anna Corbella on GAES Centros Auditivos has also chosen to mark the challenge in acrobatic fashion.
Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam revealed a new version of the stunt during the launch of Cheminées Poujoulat.
Dressed impeccably, in a Hugo Boss suit, British sailor Alex Thomson starred in what was coined the “keel walk” two years ago. With the boat sailing on its side and the keel above the water, a jet ski took Alex right up to the hull so he could take a walk down the keel before diving into the water in true James Bond style. The sailor had already performed the daring stunt in 2009, but many people believed the photo to be 'photoshopped', so he decided to repeat the exercise, but this time the team took a camera crew to provide irrefutable proof.
Alex Thomson made history with his risky exploit. The boat was sailing in the Solent at nine knots, with winds of 17-19 knots and waves of 50cm to 1.25 metres. The crew had to make the boat list at 45 to 70 degrees and hold it for 60 seconds on a stable course. A gust or drop of wind at the wrong moment could have caused the keel of Hugo Boss to come charging down on Alex and the driver of the jet ski; 4 tonnes of lead at a speed of 16 km/h! As with any precision manoeuvre, the skipper, Ross Daniel, couldn't see the jet ski or the brave sailor and only had the information being fed to him by a crew member at the stern of the IMOCA 60.
Guillermo, José and Anna's photos were taken during the stability test for their IMOCAs. This is an obligatory safety procedure to make sure the yachts can right themselves if they capsize. The IMOCA 60 is positioned facing down, without the mast, and with the sheer weight of the keel it 'stands up' by itself. Other details are also verified during this test, such as whether the mast and keel are parallel to the sea surface with the hull rolled to 90 degrees. It's that point that the Neutrogena and GAES Centros Auditivos teams made the most of to perform their own 'keel walks', just like Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss.
This year the English skipper has managed to top the 'keel walk' with a 'mast walk'. With the boat sailing at ten knots, listing to 60 degrees, in 18 knot winds in the waters of Cádiz, Spain, Alex climbed the 27 metres of mast, without a harness and only the assistance of the boat listing. He then performed an impeccable dive into the water from a height of 12 metres. “It was the most stupid thing I have ever done in my life”, said the ocean titan.
Now, will Guillermo, José and Ana dare to emulate that stunt?