Sailing: Gear failure slows Thomson in Vendée

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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.

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