British sailor Alex Thomson and his co-skipper Neal McDonald forced to withdraw from the Transat Jacques Vabre after hitting a UFO. Skippers are continuing to work to stabilize the boat in order to navigate safely, without assistance, to the nearest port.

Britain's Alex Thomson and his co-skipper Neal McDonald have been forced to retire from the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre, the team's debut race onboard the new Hugo Boss Boat. 

At 09:37 GMT this morning, while sailing at approximately 25 knots, Thomson and McDonald, onboard the HUGO BOSS IMOCA 60 boat, hit a submerged unidentified object in the water. Both skippers escaped without major injuries however the boat sustained damage to its keel, marking the end of the race for the British sailing team. 

Speaking from onboard the boat after the incident, Alex Thomson said:

"This morning, Neal and I were both awake, going about 25 knots, when we hit something in the water. I was stood inside the cockpit just behind the pedestal. Neal was just behind the cockpit door.

We're not sure what we hit but it was something big under the water, which must have been submerged to have hit our keel and physically stop the boat at 25 knots. The keel sustained a lot of damage and it was left attached by the hydraulic ram.

Neal and I are both physically OK. No major injuries, just some bruises. We were very lucky. 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!"

Since the incident, the skippers - with the guidance from their tehnical team shore-side - have been working around the clock to stabilize the keel in order to allow them to sail safely, without assistance, to the nearest port.

Ross Daniel, Technical Director at Alex Thomson Racing, said:

"After many hours of trying to stabilize the keel, Alex and Neal are understandably very tired and so we have made the decision that they should take some rest. Together, we will assess the situation in the morning. Both skippers are safe on board, the boat is stable, and they are not in immediate danger.

Once the keel is stabilised, our best option looks to be to sail slowly and safely to the Canary Islands however we will make that decision tomorrow. Right now, Alex and Neal are in no immediate danger, and we are not under no time constraints because the boat is currently in light winds and a slight sea state, and this is likely to continue due to the high pressure in the Azores. The boat is currently sailing in a north-westerly direction, which it will continue to do thoufhout the night."

The incident occurred on what was day seven of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre, the world's longest and toughest double-handed transatlantic which takes skippers, in their pairs, on a 4,350 mile journey from Le Havre to Salvador, Brazil. When the HUGO BOSS hit the unknown object, Thomson and McDonald were over a third of the course, and were situated around 380 miles north west of the Canary Islands.