Alex Thomson on record-breaking Vendée Globe course


British solo sailor Alex Thomson has set a new national record for sailing from the equator and back to the equator of 68d 14hr 53min. That is nearly three weeks quicker than the old record set by Mike Golding.

Thomson is also inside the record schedule of 84 days set by the 2012 winner of the Vendée Globe round the world race but still lies fourth as he heads for the Doldrums before crossing the north Atlantic to the finish in Les Sables d’Olonne.

On his third attempt, Thomson, 38, has come of age but, like horse racing’s Grand National steeplechase, the Vendée course is littered with potentially disastrous fences. Ahead of the start he said his number one goal was the finish. His management of himself and his 60-foot Hugo Boss has paid dividends so far.

He has less than 3,000 miles to run and should be one of four to break the current record of 84 days set in 2008-09 by Michel Desjoyeaux.

Still leading is François Gabart, by about 100 miles from Armel le Cléac’h with Jean-Pierre Dick third. But Golding is closing down on the man in fifth place and by Friday morning

Brazil became the second country after Sweden’s all-woman team to announce an entry for the restructured Volvo round the world race starting next autumn in Alicante and takes the port of Recife takes over from the long-established Cape Town as the first stopover.

The full route for the fleet of identical 65-footers will not be announced until all the ports have been individually introduced but the organisers may have again to find a way of taking what is hoped to be a minimum of eight boats out of the water in the Indian Ocean and through the pirate-threatened waters of the Gulf on their way to Abu Dhabi.

There is likely to be another China stop and Auckland is the sailors’ Anzac favourite. Negotiations are believed still to be underway in North America and it is possible that Volvo’s home town of Gothenberg will again host the finish. 

In Italy, a case brought by the city of Venice and its mayor, Giorgio Orsini, claiming damages from the America’s Cup Event Authority after a second of two World Series regattas scheduled for April was postponed drifted into horse trading.

After delaying Thursday’s morning hearing to allow further attempts at an out of court settlement the afternoon saw a further delay until 30 January. The mayor is seeking re-election in March.

Weymouth silver medallist in the 470 dinghy, Stuart Bithell, who has split with helmsman Luke Patience as Rio will favour lighter crews, will skipper a Rochdale-Chester pair with Chris Grube to bid for the high performance 49er slot.