French solo sailor Loick Peyron was dismasted yesterday when lying third in the Vendée Globe solo round the world race.
His Open 60, Gitana Eighty was at 49 degrees south, deep in the Southern Ocean, 180 miles south of Crozet Island and about 650 miles from the remote Kerguelen Islands, used for the French scientific and environmental research programmes.
Peyron, who had held the lead for 16 of the 30 days so far, was below deck at the time, making fast progress in 30 knots of wind. He was uninjured and the boat suffered no other major damage, but he had to cut the mast, broken into several pieces, away and was left with only the boom to use as a makeshift mast.
He has some sails, including part of the mainsail, and was considering options for making land. Although the furthest away about 3,000 miles, his first thought was Australia as it was hard upwind back to South Africa and needed a favourable wind direction to opt, instead, for the Indian Ocean island of Reunion.
"I don't want to speak right now," he said by satellite telephone link. "I just feel sad for the whole team. This is not a good day."
It meant that Britain's Mike Golding moved up to fourth place in Ecover, just 28 miles behind the leader, Jean-Pierre Dick in Paprec-Virbac, who was neck and neck with Sébastien Josse in the British-backed BT. Roland Jourdain's Véolia was just ahead of Golding in third place.
It put Brian Thompson's Bahrain Team Pindar up to 12th, Sam Davies in Roxy to 14th and Dee Caffari 15th in Aviva. Steve White was 17th in Toe in the Water (Spirit of Weymouth) as Jonny Malbon slipped to 1,120 miles behind the leader in Artemis.