Sailing: Thomson's dream hits the rocks

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The Independent Online

Frustrated, "but not despondent", Alex Thomson was facing up to the likelihood that he would not be able to continue in the Vendée Globe single-handed non-stop round- the-world race yesterday.

Frustrated, "but not despondent", Alex Thomson was facing up to the likelihood that he would not be able to continue in the Vendée Globe single-handed non-stop round- the-world race yesterday.

The 30-year old from Gosport had been giving everything and was lying in sixth place when he was hit by major gear damage, deep in the Southern Ocean, last Thursday. The swivel mechanism which attaches the boom and mainsail of his Open 60 Hugo Boss sheared away from the mast and then punched a hole one foot square through the deck.

Thomson has since had to cope with the boat being knocked over in 70 knots of wind, water from the mountainous waves pouring in, and the pumps failing, clogged by carbon-fibre shards from the damage to the deck.

Speaking to The Independent on Sunday from the boat yesterday, Thomson said he was heading for Cape Town 700 miles away, still in 40 knots of wind and confused seas. "It's just not cricket," he said ruefully.

Thomson, in consultation with the yacht's designers, will then decide if a repair is possible. That would put him at least 10 days behind the rest of the fleet, but he was adamant he would not continue if the boat was not up to tackling the Southern Ocean. "I'm not going to put my life in danger, worry the team and possibly put other people's lives in danger if they had to rescue me," he said. "I am happy with my performance and, even if this race is over, the challenge is not. I will be back in four years."

Fellow-Briton Mike Golding, in fifth, slipped to 632 miles behind the French duo disputing the lead, Jean le Cam and Vincent Riou.

At the end of her first week Ellen MacArthur was five hours ahead of holder Francis Joyon's schedule in her attempt to set a new record for sailing solo round the world in her 75-foot trimaran B&Q.

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