British sailors Alex Thomson and Neal McDonald were a third of the way into an offshore sailing race in their new $7.7 million foiling sailboat on Sunday when it collided with a submerged object in the Atlantic Ocean.
“If you were to get into your car, close your eyes, and drive at 40 miles an hour into a brick wall, that’s what it felt like,” Thomson said in a statement.
He and McDonald were competing in the 4,350-mile Transat Jacques Vabre race from Le Havre, France, to Salvador, Brazil, when the 60-foot boat hit the unidentified object while running approximately 29 mph (25 knots). The incident took place about 380 miles northwest of the Canary Islands.
The duo escaped with bruises, but determined the boat was badly damaged with the keel held onto the hull by the hydraulic ram. Working with members of their UK-based shore team, Thomson and McDonald decided to cut away the keel to minimize the danger. They lowered the foils and filled the ballast tanks to add stability.
In a separate statement, the team’s technical director Ross Daniel, said “They are currently in light winds and a slight sea state and we are comfortable that there is no immediate risk to the boat or the skippers.”
The pair retired from the race and were considering options for making its way to port without needing assistance.
The boat, which is sponsored by Hugo Boss, was developed in Hampshire, England, and took more than two years to build.