Who’s the boss?

Britain’s Alex Thomson and co-skipper Neal Mcdonald set sail in Transat Jacques Vabre onboard new Hugo Boss.

Photography by Lloyd Images

28 October 2019


British sailor Alex Thomson began their Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre campaign on 28 October, his debut race onboard the new Hugo Boss racing yacht.

Thomson and his co-skipper – fellow Briton Neal McDonald – are currently competing in the double-handed 4,350mile race, which finishes in Salvador, Brazil.

Co-skipper, Neal McDonald, is a seven-time Volvo Ocean Race competitor, and former Olympic sailor, with more than 30 years’ experience in professional sailing.

The race marks the first time that fans of Skipper Thomson and his team will witness the new Hugo Boss boat in competitive action, following the yacht’s launch just last month on The River Thames in London.


Ross Daniel, Technical Director of Alex Thomson Racing provided  update on Hugo Boss‘ progress:

“Alex and Neal are now committed to the western route onboard Hugo Boss. Over the coming days, it will appear on the race tracker that the boats which took the southerly course are further ahead, ticking more miles off towards the finish line.

“However if we consider the long term effect in the Atlantic, when we look at the weather models the boats to the south could face light upwind conditions over the next 2-3 days, making it harder for them to punch through the trade winds.

“Alex and Neal meanwhile, on the western route, will pass an old dissipating low pressure system and head towards another new system developing off the eastern sea board. By the time they start to head south, towards the trade winds, we’d expect to see them pick up pace and for fleet positions to change.

“It will certainly be a few more days before we see for sure which teams took the right course!

“Onboard Hugo Boss, Alex and Neal are in good spirits. They both managed to find an opportunity to get some sleep, and both are recharged and ready to tackle what lies ahead of them”.

Hugo Boss – the name carried by each of the team’s previous IMOCA 60 yachts – marks a significant step forward for the ocean racing team. More than two years in design and build, the ground-breaking yacht is the result of 80,000 hours of labour by more than 100 designers, architects, engineers and boat builders. The boat also features new, cutting edge technologies, developed alongside with the team’s Technology Partner Nokia Bell Labs.

Thomson remains ‘one to watch’ in the highly competitive IMOCA class. In 2016 he broke the British record in the solo, non-stop, unassisted Vendée Globe, topping the third-place finish he secured in the 2012-13 edition of the race, which remains the pinnacle event in the IMOCA calendar.

The Transat Jacques Vabre provides the Hugo Boss crew a prime opportunity  learn more about their ground-breaking new boat:

“This is a learning and testing opportunity, first and foremost” said Thomson as he prepared to begin the race.

“The race will give us the opportunity to understand just what this boat is capable of, and it will undoubtedly inform the next stages of our development as we head towards the Vendée Globe next year”.

The boat has been built with that very goal in mind; to win the 2020 Vendée Globe, a race that remains one of the toughest sporting challenges in the world today, one which has only ever been won by a French sailor. With just two competitive races in the team’s schedule before then (the Transat Jacques Vabre and the New York-Vendée race in June 2020), the British team plans to maximise every available opportunity to familiarise themselves with what they hope will be a boat worthy of Vendée Globe gold.

“We of course know the Transat Jacques Vabre very well.” Thomson continued. “We finished second in this race in both 2003 and 2015. However, this time around – with a new boat – the goal is to reach the finish line with the boat in good condition, and with a great deal of knowledge gained along the way. If we can do that, then I believe we place ourselves in a very good position for 2020”.

The new Hugo Boss is one of five new generation IMOCAs in action in the Transat Jacques Vabre. As the skippers begin their 4,350 mile journey, each will be hoping that the decisions they made during the laborious design and build stages will pay off, and that they successfully – and safely – make it to the finish line in Salvador de Bahia.


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