Just a few days before the UK went into COVID-19 lockdown, the Hugo Boss IMOCA 60 was ready to exit the shed. The team had completed the significant job of rebuilding their keel area, after striking a UFO (unidentified floating object) and jettisoning their keel during the Transat Jacques Vabre at the end of 2019.
Upon arrival from the Cape Verde Islands, HUGO BOSS was moved to Southampton. There, a full NDT (non-destructive testing using ultrasound) of the boat was carried out in order to assess the damage.
Thankfully, as suspected, the damage is contained to the keel area. The rest of the hull, the foils and rudders are undamaged. The mast, rigging and full inventory of Doyle sails are undamaged also.
Following the NDT, the Hugo Boss composite team began working to cut away the damaged parts of the hull and structure. Together, their structural engineers, Gurit; naval architects, VPLP; design manager, Pete Hobson; and in-house team put together a full repair plan. This plan allowed their boat builders to move swiftly forwards with the work required throughout the Christmas period.
Their in-house technical team, meanwhile, focused on the remainder of the keel area, in order to identify the parts that required replacement. These include the keel, keel hydraulics and bearings, some of which have significant lead times and so it was imperative that they moved quickly.
Hugo Boss appointed additional specialist resource in order to deliver the repairs as quickly as possible. This included Pro Build Composites, who led the repair programme, and Carrington Boats Ltd, the team who built Hugo Boss and therefore know the boat very well.
The objective was to complete the work required as quickly as possible, but to deliver a comprehensive and robust repair, aiming to be sailing again by March 2020, at which point they hoped to move straight into a testing and development period. While COVID-19 has hampered their plans somewhat, they still aim to secure as many miles on the water as we can ahead of the New York to Vendée race in June, if the race proceeds as planned.
While this is of course a setback, there are many positives to take away. During the short window of time that they had to sail alongside the rest of the IMOCA fleet in the Transat Jacques Vabre they were able to gain a good understanding of Hugo Boss' performance and potential. They are very confident with that performance and are looking forward to developing further as they push on towards the Vendée Globe.
See this video below for a full explanation of how the incident unfolded from skippers Alex Thomson and Neal McDonald.
Alex Thomson Racing say that their team will commit everything they have to ensuring that, when they reach the start line of the Vendée Globe on November 8th, they are in the best possible position. Winning the Vendée Globe singlehanded, non-stop round the world race remains the sole objective of this team.