04 March 2014 - 11:25 • 8848 views

Share

Article

He surprised everyone a couple years ago with his keel walk. In Cadiz, Alex Thomson has now gone one step further with a spectacular climb up the mast on his 60-foot IMOCA Hugo Boss and without any safety harness. Third in the last Vendée Globe after 80 days of sailing, the British skipper is living up to his daredevil reputation by diving off the top of his mast.

Le nouvel exploit d'Alex Thomson© HUGO BOSS Sailing Team“To be honest, it’s the craziest thing I’ve done in my life,” declared Alex Thomson, relieved to have succeeded in his incredible climb. It’s far from certain it’s something he will want to repeat… And for good reason, as the figures are mind-blowing. The mast on Hugo Boss towers thirty metres up. When Alex dived into the water, the boat was heeled over at 60 degrees and was sailing along at ten knots in an 18-knot wind. So his jump was from 12 metres up. In all, it took 45 seconds between the start of the climb and the moment when he touched the water. 45 seconds, which must have seemed like a lifetime to carry out this daring stunt.

 

A high-wire exercice

Le nouvel exploit d'Alex Thomson© HUGO BOSS Sailing TeamIn 2012, the pictures of Alex Thomson standing on his keel wearing his smart Hugo Boss suit created a sensation. Following on from that suuccess, the British skipper wanted to do something even more striking. That’s why after the keel walk, he came up with the mast walk. The 39-year old took a while to prepare this high-wire exercice. “I took diving lessons in a pool. I trained to dive from ten metres up. It was a good test to see whether I was capable of doing it from such a height. But once at the top of the mast, the conditions are very different indeed. You are no longer indoors in a controlled environment, but at a boat going at speed with the mast constantly moving.” The helmsman kept his cool during the adventure. Ross Daniel and his crew had to maintain the angle of heel and the speed of the IMOCA monohull to enable Alex to reach the top of the mast as easily as possible.
Le nouvel exploit d'Alex Thomson© HUGO BOSS Sailing Team“More dangerous than I imagined”

In spite of all the training and the skill of the men on the boat, it was nevertheless a tricky operation. Alex Thomson: “We weren’t certain that it could be done. There were so many factors to consider to be able to do it: the wind speed, the weather conditions, the speed of the boat, the angle of the mast and our ability to communicate during the climb. It could have gone wrong. I could have fallen into the water at the wrong time or in the wrong place or even onto the deck of the boat. A medical team was alongside in case they were required. Fortunately, it all went smoothly, in spite of my head spinning. What an experience! I really enjoyed it. But it was much more dangerous than I thought it would be. We only had one go at it and that was enough.” Le nouvel exploit d'Alex Thomson© HUGO BOSS Sailing TeamStill looking smart in his black suit, Alex Thomson has certainly succeeded in his latest communications. But we don’t recommend other people try it. Third in the last Vendée Globe after 80 days and 19 hours of sailing, Alex fully intends to return for his fourth solo voyage around the world. He’ll certainly know what to do to climb to the top of his mast, but he’ll be attached next time...

Olivier Bourbon, Mer & Média / Photos : Hugo Boss