Thomson's Vendee Globe bid hits trouble

Down but not out, a dejected Alex Thomson was nursing his 60-foot Hugo Boss back to the French Atlantic coast port of Les Sables d'Olonne yesterday, not knowing if he had a chance of rejoining the Vendee Globe singlehanded round the world race.

He had left on Sunday full of hope that his troubles were behind him after a round-the-clock effort to repair collision damage which had left a gaping hole in the starboard (right) side of the gleaming black hull and had sent the 80-foot mast crashing down and into the sea just three weeks before the start. His shore crew was standing by to meet him this morning (Wednesday) to assess whether a repair to structural damage could be undertaken quickly.

Thomson was aware of a major bang when the boat fell off a wave on a Monday night when the fleet, which had seen 30 boats at the start on Sunday, was battling through winds of up to 50 knots.

The most Thomson had seen was 42 knots and when the damage was discovered the wind had eased to 25 knots, though the sea was still very confused. He had already had to bail out nearly 1,500 litres of seawater from a ballast tank leak when he saw more water sloshing around and though it was more of the same. But when the level dropped Thomson saw a pressure stream coming through the port side near the structure which supports the keel fin and then found a six-foot strip of outer hull skin trailing in the water.

"I am too gutted to say anything," said Thomson.

Mike Golding is best of the seven British, putting Ecover into eighth place as Loick Peyron's Gitana Eighty retook the lead fro, Jean-Pierre Dick's Paprec-Virbac and Roland Jourdain third and in close pursuit.

Dee Caffari in Roxy, Sam Davies in Roxy and Brian Thompson in Bahrain Team Pindar were 12th, 13th, and 14th with Steve White doing remarkably well, 16th in Spirit of Weymouth. Jonny Malbon's Artemis was 19th.

Michel Desjoyeaux was back at sea having repaired the leak to his ballast system.

A video report from the Vendee Globe - Sam Davies in the thick of the storm