Problems for Malbon as he asks for deadline extension

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The Independent Online

Fighting to put a €5m singlehanded ocean racing campaign back on track, Johnny Malbon was yesterday on a training run in the Atlantic aboard his new Open 60, Artemis.

As female competitors Samantha Davies in Roxy and Dee Caffari in Aviva have seen their projects to compete in the Vendee Globe non-stop round the world race develop steadily, Malbon is one of three British male counterparts who have had to cope with difficulties along the way.

A fourth, Alex Thomson has completed a refit to his Hugo Boss in Portugal and is now sailing again.

Brian Thompson is also in the Atlantic, half way through a 4,500-mile solo voyage which will be the last stage of qualification after fitting a new mast in Pindar.

Listen to Stuart Alexander talk to Brian Thompson mid-Atlantic

Mike Golding, who has a new keel and bulb fitted, needs only to test everything on a lighter, more powerful Ecover in a 1,450-mile stint to confirm his place. He plans to do a lot more than that, starting at the weekend with a race from St. Nazaire to St. Malo and back. "I need to have a good bash upwind and try to break the boat," he said.

But Malbon is under a lot more pressure. His Simon Rogers-designed boat was, he explains, three months behind schedule out of the Neville Hutton yard in Lymington. That meant he missed the singlehanded Artemis Transat from Plymouth to Boston last month.

He then found that the mast for his boat was overweight and so would not be given a valid measurement certificate.

A new one is being built, 125kgs lighter, but is not expected to be delivered until 1 August. The normal qualification deadline for the Vendee is 1 July, but Malbon has asked for a delay until 1 September. Even so, it takes a few days to fit a new mast and then needs to be tested before going out to complete his 4,500-mile qualifier.

The timetable is tight and any further slippage in equipment delivery or delay caused by gear problems or weather could see the whole effort run into the sand.