Thompson forced to hand steer in Globe race

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As the lead changed for the 20th time in the 26 days so far of the Vendee Globe solo round the world race, Britain's Brian Thompson has reported he was hand steering up to six hours a day in a bid to catch the pace-setters 450 miles ahead of him.

Thompson is still settling in to the power of his Juan Kouyoumdjian-designed Bahrain Team Pindar, which has been reaching speeds of over 28 knots as he rides a weather front which is threatening to increase from gale to storm force over the weekend.

"It is a matter of keeping your average up at a time when everyone is pushing their boats hard to their limits," he said. But he was also being cautious. "I still have to remember that I have 11,000 miles to Cape Horn," he said.

Storming back into a lead taken away from him by Seb Josse in the British boat BT, part of Ellen MacArthur's Offshore Challenges stable, Loick Peyron picked a pearl of a wind system to turn a five-mile deficit into a 45-mile advantage. He is one of seven of the 25 remaining competitors to have held the lead, but he has held it for much longer than anyone else.

The leading Brit is still Mike Golding, and he is still eighth in Ecover, but by only yards from Roland Jourdain's Veolia, and he has yo-yoed back to a 128-mile deficit. Ominously making progress on both is Michel Dejoyeaux, winner in 2000, who had to turn back to repair a ballast system and restarted from Les Sables d'Olonne 40 hours behind the fleet.

Thompson, in 13th, is followed by Sam Davies in Roxy as another man who had to go back, make repairs and restart, Switzerland's Bernard Stamm, overtook Dee Caffari in Aviva to push her down to 16th. The British lanterne rouge is again carried by Jonny Malbon in the brand new Artemis, 70 miles behind the cash-strapped optimist Steve White in the 10-year old Toe in the Water (Spirit of Weymouth).

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