Britsh solo sailor Jonny Malbon yesterday became the 16th of the original 30 starters to pull out of the non-stop Vendée Globe round the world race.
The 34-year old from the Isle of Wight took the decision as the mainsail of his Open 60 Artemis continued to disintegrate. He could have carried on, he said, but was about to enter a desolate area of the Southern Ocean which would eventually take him round Cape Horn where there is no safe haven port.
Instead he turned north to New Zealand and was heading for Auckland, where he is expected towards the end of this week. "It is no longer if but when the mainsail will just disintegrate completely," said Malbon. "so heading out past New Zealand back into the Southern Ocean is just not feasible. My heart is telling me to go on, but my head is telling me I have to stop and in the end it is true - I have no choice. Words cannot describe my disappointment that this has come to an end."
Malbon has struggled ever since the delivery of his new boat came later than planned and he then had to ask for a month's extension beyond the qualification date after the mast had to be replaced. What is probably the most difficult yacht race in the world was also his debut in the top levels of solo ocean racing.
Far from making his debut, Michel Desjoyeaux was going into his 19th consecutive day in the lead as, in Foncia, the 2000 race winner knocked off the final miles to the big left turn back up the Atlantic at Cape Horn overnight, leaving 7,000 of the original 27,000 miles to go to the finish at Les Sables d'Olonne.
Second by 85 miles in Véolia was still Roland Jourdain and still the best of the foreign competitors, but 2,000 miles behind Desyoyeaux is Sam Davies, sixth in Roxy and one of the two women competitors, both British.
The second, Dee Caffari, in Aviva who is also reporting mainsail degradation, is ninth, with a third Briton, Brian Thompson in Bahrain Team Pindar, between them in eighth.
The last remaining Briton is Steve White, 11th in the 10-year old Toe in the Water (Spirit of Weymouth), who mortgaged his house to complete a dream.
Alex Thomson was knocked out early on after hull damage to Hugo Boss and Mike Golding crashed out when his Ecover was dismasted soon after taking the lead.