British solo sailor Alex Thomson has third place in the Vendée Globe round the world race in his grasp as the man ahead of him, Jean-Pierre Dick lost his keel overnight as is limping to safety in the Azores.
And behind Thomson, Mike Golding is within a couple of miles of taking fourth from Jean le Cam if the final 10 days go his way.
Dick reported the loss of his keel soon after midnight Tuesday. He had to turn the boat quickly, fill his water ballast tanks for stability, and run before the wind.
Technically he is still in third place behind François Gabart and Armel le Cléach, separated by just under 100 miles and with Gabart having 1,700 miles to run to the finish in Les Sables d’Olonne.
“I am shocked and gutted for Jean-Pierre,” said Thomson, whose Hugo Boss was 200 miles behind Dick but rapidly overhauling him. “It is not fair for someone who has sailed such a great race.”
Anything can happen in the Vendée, now in its 74 day, and keels have been lost in the last few days. Golding limped the last 50 miles when it happened to him. Of the 20 starters in November, assuming Dick retires, 11 are still racing, some with a long still to go. The attrition rate so far is 45 per cent.
Spanish Olympian Iker Martinez has left the Prada-backed Italian America’s Cup challenger Luna Rossa with British Olympian Chris Draper, who has been with the team for some years, resuming as principal helmsman for skipper Max Sirena.
A second Brazilian port, Itajai, which also featured in the last race, will be a stopover again on the 2014 Volvo round the world race. Recife has already been announced as the first, breaking with the tradition of going first to Cape Town.
Now the fleet of identical 65-footers will call back into Brazil on the way back up the Atlantic before going on to the United States and east across the north Atlantic.