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RdR breaking: Leader Alex Thomson (GBR) in HUGO BOSS runs aground off Grande Terre, uses engine to g


GUADELOUPE (#1133) – The headline pretty well says it all, in what has been a dramatic turn of events in the finish of the hotly contested IMOCA 60 Class for the 40th Anniversary Route du Rhum. In a TV interview a few minutes ago, Mr Thomson said he took a short nap and awoke having gone around. "I expected to arrive at the island not hit it." He is devastated at what appears to be a loss to Paul Meilhat who is running second, but says he will be a great winner. "I'm very disappointed in myself" but was pleased to have nonetheless finished some 10 hours ahead of the second place yacht, absent the penalty – which Mr Thomson accepted and said was appropriate under the rules. "It was a fair penalty."

Mr Thomson said he has an electric watch with an alarm that gives him a shock on the wrist to wake him up. He had set it to take an hour's nap, but apparently did not wake up. He said "I let myself down."

Here are details from the organizers web page, just posted:

Note: The jury have since made the decision to give Alex Thomson a 24-hour penalty following the incident overnight. Paul Meilhat on SMA has 141.3nm to go and is travelling at 16 knots. In order to beat Thomson he must cross the finish line by 08:10:58 local time tomorrow.

This is the official procedure that took place ahead of the decision:

The jury were last night alerted by the race management of the Hugo Boss incident, after Alex Thomson ground his boat on the north end of Grande Terre resulting in damage along his starboard hull, on the foil and at the bow.

The jury have since decided to file a protest against Alex Thomson for use of his engine. The procedure to determine the penalty is ongoing and president of the jury, Georges Priol explains more.

The timings

“On the night of Thursday to Friday, at 01:40 UTC, the race management briefed the jury of the incident concerning Alex Thomson. At 03:12 am, the technical team of Hugo Boss sent an email outlining the facts. The skipper then spoke by phone with Race Director, Jacques Caraës and their exchanges were then transcribed in writing. A protest form was sent to the skipper at 08.00 GMT to inform him that the jury were submitting a protest.

As the procedure requires, this document contains an admissibility form that Alex has approved by return. It is now up to the skipper to close the procedure by answering the question as to whether he has any elements to add. This involves elements that could have the value of extenuating or aggravating circumstances (For example, to remove his engine for safety reasons is considered as an attenuating circumstance).”

The penalty grid

"On the Route du Rhum, the penalties are expressed in time. They range from 0 through to disqualification. We are working on a grid system with ranges depending on the seriousness of the offence: penalty from 0 to 2 h, penalty from 2 h to 24 h, penalty of 24 h to DSQ (disqualification).”

The composition of the jury- The judgment without appeal

The international jury of Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe is composed of five referees: two British, two French, one German. As it is an international jury, its decisions are not subject to appeal.

"Whatever the decision, circumstances and timing of the event will necessarily lead to frustration. We hope to be able to make a judgment before the passage of the line by Alex Thomson. But everything depends on the time of his answer, according to the procedure.”

To repeat, the jury have now made the decision to give Alex Thomson a 24-hour penalty following the incident that occurred overnight. Paul Meilhat on SMA could now be the new winner of the race. As your Ed. posts this at 07:30 Pacific on Friday, and by way of an update to the foregoing, Mr Meilhat has 105nm left to sail to the finish, and is currently going 19 knots. If he can average just 10 knots he will finish in under 11 hours and easily win. But he could also slow significantly in the final approach to the finish off Guadeloupe; if so it turns into a real nail biter. In order to beat Thomson he must cross the finish line by 08:10:58 local time tomorrow (Saturday).

Yann Elies (FRA) is in third, about 15nm astern of Mr Meilhat, so is also in the hunt for first in the 20-boat IMOCA 60 Class.

Watch the RdR live racetracker here. A screen grab from the race tracker as we post this....

Your Ed. believes the lead photo above, courtesy of the RdR website, is Mr Thomson after having gone aground off the north end of the east island. Note the damage to the starboard topsides aft. The photos below are after getting off, and sailing to the finish. The incident occurred at the north end of Grande Terre around 2200 local (AST) Thursday night, and despite the grounding (but absent the penalty) Mr Thomson has set a new race record for monohulls. This is the first Route du Rhum for Mr Thomson and HUGO BOSS, and likely the last race for this HUGO BOSS as Mr Thomson is expecting to take delivery of a new IMOCA 60 next year.

Alex Thomson (GBR) being interviewed dockside in Guadeloupe Friday morning, photo courtesy of France's Canal 10.