Sailing: Gear failure slows Thomson in Vendée

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Down, but hoping he is not out, Alex Thomson yesterday became the first major casualty of the Vendée Globe race. The 30- year-old from Gosport first heard a creaking sound and then the structure which attaches the boom carrying the mainsail to the mast - called the gooseneck - sheered off, punching a one-foot square hole in the deck.

Thomson, lying sixth in the fleet of 20 single-handers at the time, was able to send pictures to the French design office of Marc Lombard, but was not sure he would have enough materials to make a satisfactory repair. Holding the most southerly position, France's Jean le Cam was 40 miles ahead of his nearest rival as the leaders entered the Indian Ocean stage of their non-stop race around the world.

In some pain after having to drag heavy sails around her 75ft trimaran B&Q, Ellen MacArthur nevertheless maintained good average speeds on the fifth day of her attempt to set a record for sailing solo round the world. Now past the Canaries, her wind speed and direction alarms were, however, constantly going off in the unstable conditions.