Josse's hopes sink after mainsail breaks

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The Independent Online

As his mainsail crashed to the deck on Saturday afternoon, Frenchman Sébastien Josse, sailing for Ellen MacArthur's BT team, saw his hopes of winning the single-handed Artemis Transat from Plymouth to Boston come crashing down too.

Josse, who described himself as European pre-race, had been leading the Open 60 class but then saw two of his compatriots, Vincent Riou and Loick Peyron, take over the battle for the lead with 1,300 of the 2,800 miles to go.

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Britain's Samantha Davies was sixth, 272 miles behind while Dee Caffari was ninth of the remaining 11 boats, 354 miles behind.

In the 40-foot class, over 400 miles behind after a week at sea, Italy's Giovanni Soldini continued to increase his lead, nearly 50 miles, over Germany's Boris Herrmann as Miranda Merron slipped to sixth but, with a deficit of 56 miles, showed how much more tightly bunched are the 40-footers.

The incident on BT occurred at a time when there was a 36-hour news 'blackout', which meant that no information was being given to the competitors - they usually receive two-hourly position reports - and this was carried through to the public, so the boats could not outflank the organisers' intentions.

The cause of Jo-Jo's demise was a combination of mast track damage and the lashed headboard of the mainsail failing. This left the sail on the deck but the halyard at the top a mast needing repair. As there was a big swell, climbing the 28.5 metre mast needed first a slow run to calmer waters, by which time any hope of regaining the lead would have been lost.

So, Josse has turned back towards France, will make temporary repairs when conditions allow, and then continue preparation for the Vendée Globe singlehanded round the world race, which starts in November.