Thomson lands in Cape Town as Simon quits Vendee Globe

Paris (AFP) –


British skipper Alex Thomson officially retired from the solo round-the-world Vendee Globe race when he stepped ashore in Cape Town on Friday morning, as French skipper Sebastien Simon also declared that his race was over.

Charlie Dalin and his boat Apivia continue to lead although he is facing storms in the southern Indian Ocean. Dalin is expected to reach Cape Leeuwin, the most south-westerly tip of Australia, around December 11 or 12.

In Friday's 1700GMT ranking, he is leading for the eleventh day in a row, followed by Louis Burton in Bureau Vallee 2 who is 140 nautical miles behind and Thomas Ruyant in LinkedOut, a further 63nm adrift.

It took Thomson, the early leader of the race, nearly a week to sail his boat Hugo Boss the 1,800nm to safe harbour after suffering irrepairable rudder damage which left him with no alternative but to retire.

"My arrival here in Cape Town marks our retirement from the race," he said after stepping ashore.

"I'm certainly relieved to be back on dry land but I have very mixed emotions today.

"I'm still coming to terms with what's happened, and I'm obviously utterly devastated that this is how the race has ended for us.

"But, as I've said before, it's in our toughest moments that we find our greatest strength. Now we have to pick ourselves up and move forwards, and I've no doubt that we can do that together as a team."

- 'Adventure ends' -

French skipper Simon also confirmed that his race was over as he headed north to the refuge of Cape Town where he is expected to land overnight from Saturday to Sunday.

On Wednesday his boat Areka Paprec hit an object in the water which badly damaged his starboard foil and its housing.

The boat has been taking on water which Simon has largely dealt with but repairs to the foil will be lengthy and complicated, prompting Simon to make the decision to retire from the race.

"We thought a lot about possible repairs. But to consider them, I had to sacrifice my foil, cut it," he told race organisers.

"It's a massive 300 kilogramme piece. Then it would have been necessary to repair the hull from the outside and on the deck to seal the foil well.

"These repairs were going to be very complicated. Probably, four to five days of work without counting the repair to the bulkhead and there was a secondary water leak from the rudder system.

"There was no guarantee that the repairs would hold for the rest of the race."

The 30-year-old, who was racing in his first Vendee Globe, was fourth at the time of his collision.

"I never thought I would be stopping here," he said.

"I thought I would succeed on this Vendee! I gave everything I had. I put a lot of passion and energy into it, I wanted to get to the finish. The adventure ends here.

"All this gives me only one desire... to be back again in four years."

British skipper Sam Davies is also on her way to Cape Town for repairs after she was "sent flying" when her boat hit an unidentified floating object on Wednesday.

Kevin Escoffier had a narrow escape earlier in the week when he was rescued by fellow competitor Jean Le Cam after a giant wave folded his boat in two.

"Over the past week or so we've been reminded of just how difficult this race is," said Thomson.

"I've said it time and time again but there really is no sporting challenge in the world as tough as the Vendee Globe."