Fishing boat dismasts Thomson's Hugo Boss

The bad luck which seems to dog British singlehanded sailor Alex Thomson struck again in the early hours this morning when his Open 60, Hugo Boss, was rammed by a French fishing boat just two miles off Les Sables d'Olonne.

The impact was enough to bring the mast crashing down as well as holing the boat. The mast was broken but it and the sails were later recovered.

Assessments were being made about whether the mast could be repaired in time for him to compete in the the two-handed Barcelona World Race. Two other teams have offered their spare masts. The design team flew in to ensure that no major structural damage had been done to the hull and assess how quickly it could be repaired.

The accident happened at 02.30 in the morning and the boat was stationary, outside the harbour entrance waiting to transfer some crew and for the lock gates to open. The mast and sails were cut away and the boat motored the remaining distance to the harbour.

Meanwhile, heading through what he described as "minefields everywhere," Kenny Read, skipper of the American entry Puma, regained the lead in the first leg of the Volvo round the world race from Alicante to Cape Town as the fleet of eight faced a weekend of picking its way through another minefield, which is the Doldrums.

Completing the first seven days at sea, he had re-established a cushion of 20 miles over Torben Grael in Ericsson 4, with the Nordic crew of Ericsson 3 a further 14 miles astern in what were still fast but tricky wind patterns.

Joining them in the top half was the oldest boat, Delta Lloyd, now in the hands of Irishman Ger O'Rourke and which, as ABN Amro 1, won the race in 2005-06.

With the Russian boat, skippered by Andreas Hanakamp in fifth, that pushed Ian Walker and his Irish team on Green Dragon down to sixth, nearly 100 miles behind the leader. Bringing up the rear was the second Telefonica boat as Bouwe Bekking, still struggling with spinnaker repairs and left playing catch up after stopping on the second day for rudder repairs, finally moved off the bottom in Telefonica Blue.

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