François Gabart smashes Vendée record as Thomson heads for podium


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The Independent Online

The Vendée Globe record for sailing solo round the world has been well and truly smashed by François Gabart, crossing the finishing line today to become the youngest ever winner in a time of 78 days, 2hrs 16mins 40secs.

The first race in 1989-90 was won by Titouan Lamazou in 109 days 8hrs 48min 50secs and this year the first two will go round the world alone in under 80 days. The previous record, set by Gabart's mentor, Michel Desjoyeaux, in 2008-09, was 84 days 3hrs 9min.

Chasing the 29-year old Gabart home was Armel le Cléac'h 3hrs 17min 12 secs behind behind after a toe to toe battle that has lasted for over 24,000 miles.  A new, younger generation of round the world adventurers is taking over.

And, free from the self-elected job of shepherding the crippled Jean-Pierre Dick, Alex Thomson was pointing the bows of his 60-foot Hugo Boss towards a third-place finish in a Les Sables d'Olonnes packed with Sunday crowds.

Dick has been nursing his boat carefully to the finish after losing his keel and relying on water ballast to keep his Virbac-Paprec upright and making progress. It would mean that up to 12 of the 20 starters in November would finish.

Thomson, too, has been nursing his boat, overcoming the loss of electricity generating capacity and focussing relentlessly on his stated priority of finishing the race. The bonus of a podium place is well-deserved, not least as it will have been achieved in an older generation boat. He is expected to finish Tuesday night.

Life remains hard for the man who once rescued Thomson, Mike Golding. He had been swapping fifth and sixth places with Jean le Cam but saw few opportunities on Sunday to regain fifth and shut down the 70-mile deficit to the canny Frenchman