Shattered mast forces Golding to reassess race goal

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British hopes of winning the Vendÿe Globe race were dashed in less than eight hours yesterday when Mike Golding saw the 85-foot wing mast of his Open 60 Team Group 4 buckle and crash into the sea.

British hopes of winning the Vendÿe Globe race were dashed in less than eight hours yesterday when Mike Golding saw the 85-foot wing mast of his Open 60 Team Group 4 buckle and crash into the sea.

Golding, one of the favourites to win the 26,000 mile, non-stop round-the-world race, was said to be "massively devastated" when he motored back into the starting port of Les Sables d'Olonne in the early hours of the morning. An older mast and sail is being transported from Southampton in a bid to restart within a 10-day deadline and Golding, who had already spent £4m getting to the start line, said he was determined to switch the agenda to trying to break the 105-day record set in 1996-97 by Christophe A.

At 11.30pm on Thursday, just 44 miles into the race, the carbon fibre-wing suddenly broke about half-way down and it took Golding nearly two-and-a-half hours to cut away first the top bit of the 250 kilogram tube and then to clear the remaining 40-foot-plus stump. In addition he had to cope with a further 250kg of rigging and spars and cut away the main sail and genoa under which he had been making a steady 15 knots.

There is additional damage to the hull, a rudder, and a dagger board - all of which is a bitter blow for what was acknowledged to be the best-prepared yacht of the 24 entries. Golding was quick to emphasise, however, that the Shore team was in no way to blame and they are all on hand to effect the repairs.

Also back in port, but with less serious damage was Roland Jourdain, who used the time taken to replace a broken Gennaker Halyard at 3am, to have some emergency dentistry to broken teeth. He restarted at 5.30am and Patrick de Radigues, followed him out in the evening after returning to repair his autopilot.

The race was led by the three French rivals, Yves Parlier, Michel Desjoyeaux and Marc Thiercelin. Britain's Ellen MacArthur was in the chasing group alongside Catherine Chabaud and Thomas Coville.

* The four-times America's Cup winner Dennis Conner is to compete for the New York Yacht Club again in the 2003 race in Auckland. "The place for the Cup is on New York's West 44th Street." said Conner, referring to the club's premises. After losing the Cup to Australia's John Bertrand in 1983, Conner won it back for the US but under the banner of the San Diego Yacht Club in California.

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