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Alex Thomson has become the second Vendée Globe skipper to pass the Equator back into the northern hemisphere...

Atlantic Ocean – Alex Thomson has become the second Vendée Globe skipper to pass the Equator back into the northern hemisphere, setting a new race record in the process. The British skipper of Hugo Boss passed zero degrees latitude at 1712 UTC yesterday, 16 hours and 49 minutes behind leader Le Cléac’h. Thomson’s passage from Cape Horn has taken 13 days, five hours and 30 minutes, smashing 2012-13 Vendee Globe winner Francois Gabart’s existing record for the passage by 14 hours.

The 42-year-old Brit took 62 days, five hours and 10 minutes to cross the Equator heading north after starting the solo round the world race from Les Sables d’Olonne in France on November 6 – more than three days ahead of Gabart’s record-breaking run. Incredibly Thomson rounded Cape Horn on Christmas Day lagging behind Le Cléac’h by almost 500 nautical miles, but favourable conditions in the South Atlantic saw him reel in his French rival, at one point getting to within 50nm of Le Cléac’h’s Banque Populaire. The delta separating the pair was this morning fixed at 146nm as both skippers tried to wiggle their way through a very active Doldrums located just north of the Equator. Le Cléac’h had a slim advantage at the 0400 UTC rankings with speeds of seven knots compared to a painful four knots for Thomson. The unstable, light winds currently stretch around 600 miles to the north of the duelling pair, hampering their progress towards the finish line.

The same can’t be said for third-placed Jérémie Beyou, who is making the most of the south-easterly trade winds to eat into the deficit between first and third. In just 24 hours the French skipper of Maître CoQ has clawed back 300nm on the leading duo, and more miles are expected to tumble throughout the course of the day. Hungarian sailor Nandor Fa, currently in eighth place, is expected to pass Cape Horn today, having only 270 miles to go at 0400 UTC. The quickest skipper this morning was 10th-placed Frenchman Eric Bellion, making 17 knots towards Cape Horn in south-westerly wind of around 13 knots.

In a call to Vendee Globe HQ this morning, TechnoFirst FaceOcean skipper Sebastien Destremau revealed he had carried out a major repair to his mast after leaving the shelter of Port Esperance in Tasmania. “The opportunity to exit the bay though the very narrow passage was too good to be missed so I took it even if I still had a mega job up the mast outstanding on my ‘to do’ list,” said Destremau, who spent three days at anchor making repairs to damaged rig. “I sailed for a few hours to be well offshore then slowed the boat right down and went up the rig to sand, glue, laminate carbon fibre and so on. The boat is now in perfect condition and I am very confident the mast is as strong as it can be.”

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