Thomson in race to make Vendee start line

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The Independent Online

A still stunned Alex Thomson was nevertheless working feverishly to save his assault on the Vendee Globe non-stop singlehanded round the world race yesterday in a boatbuilding shed alongside the pontoons holding 28 of the 30 gleaming 60-footers.

Far from singlehanded, Thomson has a team of about 30 trying to repair his gleaming black Hugo Boss after it was rammed by a fishing boat a week earlier when waiting to enter the Port Olona.

As well as a hole nearly 15 feet by seven, the mast came crashing down and, after being cut away, had to be raised from the sea bed.

Audio: Stuart Alexander talks with Alex Thomson in Les Sables d'Olonne

A week later, a new section has been moulded in carbon fibre and delivered from the Multiplast yard up the coast in Vannes. A new section of mast is being flown up from New Zealand. New rigging has been ordered from Future Fibres in Valencia and all the work is being done in a facility offered by a local builder.

The boat, which is also backed by Britain's America's Cup challenge boss Sir Keith Mills, has had help from his Team Origin. Sailing director Mike Sanderson, forced to retire yesterday from the attempt backed by Sir Richard Branson to set a new transatlantic record, paid a flying visit before going on the New York and may return for the Vendee start.

A normally super-optimistic Thomson said today: "The whole objective was to try and win the Vendee and this has been a ridiculous distraction. In theory, the repair shouldn't affect the boat's performance, but we are virtually starting from scratch again and we have an untested piece if kit..

"This has been a major, major trauma to everybody including myself, and it will be miraculous if we make the start. It looks like it isn't possible but the experts say it is. I wake up every morning and think it's a bloody nightmare."

If everything goes to plan the boat will sail again on about 5 November, just four days before the start.

Meanwhile, in a drag race down the Brazilian Atlantic coast, and with 3,400 miles to the finish in Cape Town, the top four boats on the first leg of the Volvo round the world race from Alicante, were separated by just eight miles.

Having been first round the scoring gate of Isla da Noronha, Ian Walker and the crew of Green Dragon had been overtaken by the Spanish entry Telefonica Black.

Their two-mile deficit left them also fighting off the American Kenny Read in Puma, with the pre-race favourite, Torben Grael, in home waters in Sweden's Ericsson 4, a further five miles astern.