Vendee leader Thomson hopes to emerge from doldrums in good spirits

At sea (AFP) –


British yachtsman Alex Thomson is hoping to conserve his commanding Vendee Globe lead as he navigates through the notorious stretch of water known as the doldrums which he compared Tuesday to driving "a rally car over a mogul course".

Thomson, from Bangor in north Wales, was 90 nautical miles clear eight days into the solo round the world odyssey.

"Just about to enter the doldrums, close to the Equator. My hope really is to try to exit the doldrums with the same lead and not to lose, you can lose desperately in these places," he told BBC Radio 4 earlier in the day.

"It's a difficult place...lots of thunder clouds, big gusts of wind followed by large areas of calm.

"So it's very tricky place to be. It's a bit like being in a rally car going over a mogul course.

"Have to try and hold on to it (his lead) for sure or put it another way - try not to lose it."

Thomson and his radically designed multi-million pound Hugo Boss vessel is trying to finish off the sequence of third in 2012 and second in 2016, by becoming the first non-French skipper to win the race.

The waters either side of the equator where trade-winds from the two hemispheres clash can lead to even less sleep than usual onboard.

"(Sleep) comes and goes, wax and wanes, the last night or two I haven't had very much, before that the last couple of days before I was trying to catch up on the very little I had from the first week of the race, probably only got average two hours a day, it's tough, you take it when you can."

With the doldrums dealt with Thomson must then set about leaving the Atlantic around Cape Horn and the Southern Ocean without allowing his rivals to reel him in.

"It's a bit of a drag race, very fast, hard work to try and get into the southern ocean with a lead because it's like being on a ring road in a city, once you get into the ring road you generally stretch away."

He added: "Sometimes the safest thing to do is to put yourself between them and where you want to go.

"That means they have to sail past you and it's very difficult to sail past someone when you are all going the same speed."

Thomson, in his sixth Vendee, told the BBC that despite being alone for the 24,000 mile race he has ways of coping with loneliness.

"I don't feel like I can feel lonely, I've got a great team behind me, fantastic family, I can feel isolated but by separating the two emotions it enables me to be able to deal with it a bit better."

At 1100GMT Tuesday the 46-year-old father of two was 90 nautical miles clear of Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut.