Alex Thomson and Neal McDonald have been forced to withdraw from the Transat Jacques Vabre after hitting a UFO


© Hugo Boss

On November 3, 2019, the british navigator Alex Thomson and co-skipper Neal McDonald has been forced to withdraw from the Transat Jacques Vabre after hitting an unidentified floating object (UFO). It was their first race aboard the new boat HUGO BOSS.

The skippers have worked to stabilize the boat in order to sail safely without assistance to the nearest port.

At 09h37, while he was sailing at about 25 knots, Thomson and McDonald, aboard the IMOCA HUGO BOSS, struck an unidentified object submerged in the water. The two sailors were released with no major injuries but the vessel sustained damage to the keel, marking the end of the race for the british duo.


Speaking to the edge of the boat after the incident, Alex Thomson said :” This morning, Neal and I were both woken up, and were sailing at about 25 knots, when we struck something in the water. I was inside the cockpit just behind the pedestal. Neal was just behind the door to the cockpit.

We are not sure what we hit, but it was something big under the water, and that stopped net to the boat, which was travelling at 25 knots. The keel has suffered a lot of damage and is no longer attached by the hydraulic cylinder.

Neal and I are both physically OK. No serious injuries, just a few bruises. We had a lot of luck.

If you were to get in your car, close your eyes, and lead to more than 60 km/h into a brick wall… that is what it was!

Since the incident, the skipper, accompanied by their technical team to earth, have worked tirelessly to stabilize the keel in order to allow them to navigate safely, without assistance, until the nearest port.

© Hugo Boss

Ross Daniel, technical director, said :
After many hours of trying to stabilize the keel, Alex and Neal are obviously very tired and so we made the decision that they have to take a little rest. Together, we will reassess the situation tomorrow morning. The two sailors are safe on board, the boat is stable, and they are not in immediate danger.

Once the keel is stabilized, our best option seems to be to navigate slowly and safely to the Canary islands but we will take this decision tomorrow. At the present time, Alex and Neal are not in immediate danger, and we are not subject to the constraints of time because the boat is currently in light winds and a calm sea, and this is expected to continue due to the anticyclone over the Azores. The vessel is operating currently in north-west direction, it will continue to do all night “.

Alex Tomson. © Hugo Boss

The incident occurred on the seventh day of the Transat Jacques Vabre in Normandy Le Havre, the transatlantic race in double the longest and most difficult in the world that transports skippers, in duo, on a trip of 4 350 nautical miles between Le Havre and Salvador, Brazil. When the boat HUGO BOSS was hit by the UFO, Thomson and McDonald had travelled more than a third of the course, and were located about 380 miles north-west of the Canary islands.

To learn more about the Transat Jacques Vabre, visit the


*Update : On 8 November, Alex Thomson and Neal McDonald arrived in safety in Cape Verde on board HUGO BOSS. They were greeted by members of their technical team.

Thomson said :” It was an experience quite frightening for both of us and we are very happy to be on firm ground safely with the team.

From there, the next steps are to remove the boat from the water in order to conduct a thorough assessment of the damage. We will get then the boat to the Uk so that we can start the necessary repair work, in order to get back on the water faster.

This is of course a setback, but the team will do everything in his power to repair the boat quickly. In regards to our goal of winning the Vendée Globe in 2020-2021? Nothing changes. This remains the only goal of our team “.

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