Brian Thompson returns home from Atlantic qualifier

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Mission accomplished, a tired Brian Thompson turned left out of the Channel and into Plymouth last night at the end of 5,500 miles alone in the North Atlantic - qualifying for the bigger challenge of racing singlehanded, non-stop round the world later this year.

He was due to be met by three of his team - and some freshly made pizza - for the final miles up the Channel back to its home port of Gosport.

Thompson had been at sea for 22 days, about a quarter of the time he will need for the Vendee Globe race, but he was full of praise for his revamped Open 60, Pindar, not least for the replacement mast after the original had twice broken, the second time just a week before he was due to set off across the Atlantic with co-skipper Will Oxley in the Transat Jacques Vabre last autumn.

"It has been a good test of reliability," he said, reporting no damage to the boat and no injury to himself. "I always had faith in the boat. I have a great deal of confidence in it now. The new mast has proved rock solid."

The boat, designed by Juan Kouyoumdjian, seemed "much more powerful" than other Open 60s, he said, knowing that, once the final hurdles of paperwork have been completed, he should be clear to line up against fellow Britons Mike Golding, Alex Tomson, Samantha Davies and Dee Caffari.

Jonny Malbon, whose Simon Rogers-designed Artemis is waiting for its new mast, still has to complete a qualifying run as time runs out ahead of the 1 September deadline.

Thompson will be aboard Pindar on Saturday with a Russian crew which has chartered the boat for the Round the Island (of Wight) race in a fleet numbering over 1,600 boats.

He then continues training, with the intervention of Cowes Week in early August, before heading to France for the start of the Vendee on 9 November.

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