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Britain’s Thomson smashes solo record in Vendée Globe fightback

AFP, Marine Nationale, Vendée Globe, Nefertiti | British skipper Alex Thomson is locked in a thrilling race for the finish with France's Armel Le Cleac'h.

British sailor Alex Thomson has set up a thrilling finale to the gruelling round-the-globe race by smashing the world record for the most distance sailed solo in 24 hours.

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With about 1,000 miles remaining to the finish line, the second-placed Briton halved the gap on leader Armel Le Cleac'h to only 70 miles.

Organisers say the 42-year-old Thomson sailed his Hugo Boss 60-foot single-hull yacht at a speed of 22.4 knots over 24 hours, the equivalent of 25.7 mph, covering 536.8 miles.

The previous record was held by French sailor François Gabart, who set a mark of 534.48 miles during the 2012-13 race.

Thomson’s feat means Le Cleac’h will be looking over his shoulder as the two sailors race to the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne, in western France.

The pair, who have been locking horns since the November 6 start, passed the island of Madeira Sunday and are expected to wrap up the race some time on Thursday.

Both are likely to smash Gabart’s record of completing the non-stop, single-handed, round-the-globe race in 78 days.

'Everest of the Seas'

One of the world's most challenging sporting events, the Vendée Globe is often described as the "Everest of the Seas".

Only 71 of 138 boats have finished the race since the first edition in 1989.

Thomson is hoping to become the event's first British – and the first non-French – winner, 16 years after fellow Briton Ellen MacArthur’s second place.

The Welshman was the race’s early leader, until a collision with an underwater object deprived him of his starboard foil, putting his chances of victory in jeopardy.

Pundits say the next two days of racing are likely to determine the winner, as Le Cleac'h is unlikely to be overtaken in the milder conditions expected off the French coast.

After 43 days in front, the Breton will be desperate to hold on to his shrinking lead, having twice come second in the world-famous race.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

 

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