Stewart Hosford, Director of Alex Thomson Racing, updates on what happened

Stewart Hosford is the director of Alex Thomson Racing who spoke with Alex and Pepe immediately after losing their mast. He explains in more detail what happened. 

News JAN 15, 2015 15:19

“It was at 2102hrs. The guys were both on deck. They were putting the jib top up and taking the J1 off. Alex was up on the foredeck, Pepe was at the mast helping him out. The furling drum, which holds the J2 to the deck and is a fixed stay sheared, the main steel pin in the drum sheared, and so because they were in the middle of changing from the J1 to the J2 there was only one forestay up at that time, for that brief period. That meant the furling drum was unsupported. Alex said that it was like slow motion from there, the mast fell backwards into the water and rested on the stanchions and the daggerboard. At that point the mast broke. And it was gone pretty much immediately. It did not break on the way down. It ended up sitting half in the boat and half out and at that point it broke. There is none of the mast left.
Then they cut the mast free. They are unharmed. That is the most important thing. They called us. We called race direction. We went into crisis mode. We came up with a plan fairly quickly, to start their engine and start motoring towards Brazil. That is what they are currently heading.
They were 370 miles from Salvador de Bahia when they started the engine. Now (1300hrs UTC Thursday) they are 320 miles from Salvador, and they have enough fuel to pretty much get themselves there. We have two crew flying there already. It is an 18 hour flight from here. They will meet them on a tender to bring them into the port.
The boat is undamaged. There is a bent stanchion and a scratch on the coachroof. The boat is secured and seaworthy.

You made a point of emphasizing how rigorous your preparation, testing and checking is, this is a part which would have been checked? 

Yes, absolutely. In IMOCA unfortunately there have been a number of furling drum failures over the last 10 years, I can think of four or five. Normally when they happen there is usually another sail attached. We always sail with two sails attached. At some point you have to change sails and unattach one and attach another, briefly. Literally just in that period, the steel pin, just at the core of the furling, sheared off. In theory that cannot happen. But they do break and it has.
And how are Alex and Pepe?
They are as upset as I have ever experienced sailors on these kind of boats in this kind of race. We are all upset here, but the two guys are gutted.
This was not like other IMOCA Round the World Race where everyone hides their little issues. We had no issues on this boat at all. The problem we were dealing with this week was a slight salt ingress into the watermaker. That is literally the only issue we are dealing with. We had no issues to date. The guys had been sailing well, personally they were getting on very well, they were making good decisions. And from being in a position where you are sailing well and leading and this happens, hits doubly hard.