Sailing: Goss returns to hero's welcome

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With a smile as broad as the oceans he has crossed, and to the cheers of more than 50,000 Frenchmen more than ready to make a British singlehanded sailor a heroic member of their hall of fame, Pete Goss yesterday became the first Englishman to complete the Vendee Globe singlehanded non-stop round the world race.

Waiting for the 35-year-old Cornishman on the dockside, as well as wife Tracey and his parents, was an invitation to receive from President Chirac membership of the exclusive Legion d'Honneur, about as rare as hen's teeth for Saxons.

The former marine has already been given an award for outstanding seamanship by the Royal Ocean Racing Club after his rescue, deep in the hostile southern ocean from his sinking yacht, of one of those tens of thousands in the harbour of Les Sables d'Olonne, his fellow competitor and "kindred spirit" Raphael Dinelli.

In typically laid-back fashion and after just one hour's sleep in the last 48, he said "Yeah, I've had a holiday. There was lots of mental anxiety but the result is from teamwork and I was just lucky enough to be the driver."

Officially Goss has recorded a creditable fifth out of 15 starters in a British designed and built yacht, Aqua Quorum, the only 50-footer in a race for Open 60s. His time of 140 days is a British record, although there are quibbles about whether he was singlehanded, because he picked up an injured Dinelli, or whether it was non-stop, because he transferred him to another boat off Hobart, Tasmania.

Goss also managed to perform surgery on himself, taking a scalpel to a ruptured elbow hernia using a faxed medical instructions, a head torch, and a mirror strapped to his knee.

He returns to debts incurred in paying for "something I was meant to do", but will be given in Plymouth later this week a welcome fit for heroes. But he may do the Vendee again, this time in a 60-footer, though he said he will take three months to make any decisions about the future.

Tom O'Connor's Pause to Remember, one of the 14 yachts in the BT Challenge on its fourth leg from Sydney to Cape Town, has broken its boom, one of the latest in a series of gear failures due to heavy conditions.

Mike Golding's Group 4 still leads by 23 miles from Chris Tibbs, in Concert, and Andy Hindley, in Save the Children, as the halfway mark is passed with less than 3,000 miles to go.