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Yachtsman Alex Thomson 'running on empty' after finishing second in Vendee Globe

Record-breaking British sailor Alex Thomson has claimed second place in the gruelling Vendee Globe solo round-the-world yacht race.

Armel Le Cleac'h wrapped up the eighth edition of single-handed offshore racing's ultimate test on Thursday - denying Thomson the glory of being the first Briton to win.

Crossing the finish line early on Friday morning, the 42-year-old Welshman clocked a time of 74 days, 19 hours and 35 minutes on his 60ft Hugo Boss vessel - 16 hours behind Le Cleac'h.

"As soon as I realised that I was definitely not going to beat Armel, then it was a long time to get here," Thomson said in the port of Les Sables d'Olonne, on the French Atlantic coast.

"My biggest battle has been being frustrated that it can't go as fast as it could go... for me finishing in second place is better than finishing in third place last time."

During the race he set a new world record for the most distance sailed solo in 24 hours, and at one point halved the 70-mile lead of the Frenchman.

But the competition has not been plain sailing for the father-of-two who has had issues with the wind instruments on boat - preventing the autopilot working properly.

He also suffered a loss when the hydrofoil was ripped off his carbon fibre boat by a submerged object early on in the race - something his team say cost him the win.

Thomson told a pontoon packed with reporters that the foil is "completely gone", adding: "It was stuck out of the boat for a long time and I think gradually the water destroyed it."

He added: "The hardest thing for me was mentally having to deal with the foil."

The Gosport-based sailor revealed he has slept for five hours in the last three days and in the past 24 hours has not had any sleep at all, adding: "I am running on empty."

Thomson's team, wife Kate and six-year-old son Oscar joined him on the carbon fibre boat, which cost more than £3.5 million to build, after crossing the finish line.

The craft, carrying a smiling and waving Thomson holding a Union flag, then made its way through a canal, lined with hundreds of French and British supporters, and into the marina.

He was greeted on the pontoon by his two-year-old daughter Georgia and rival Le Cleac'h - who has been involved in a sprint to the finish with Thomson over the past few days.

Speaking on stage about the Frenchman after stepping on to land for the first time in 74 days, he said: "I could see we were always going to be quite close after I caught him up.

"And I felt sorry for him, because I was the hunter and he was the hunted.

"But I knew to pass Armel it would have to be exceptionally good conditions for my boat, and I thought that was probably unlikely.

"I gave it my best shot, but it wasn't to be this time."

Thomson, taking part for a fourth time, has matched the result of Dame Ellen MacArthur, who came second in the Vendee Globe - a race dubbed the "Everest of sailing" - in 2001.

Competitors are required to compete alone at sea without stopping, setting foot on dry land, or receiving any form of assistance for almost three months - pushing sailors to their limits.

Describing the race which takes place every four years, he said: "The race is a battle, it is a war. It is normal for us but it is brutally hard."

Quizzed on whether he would be back to try for first place, Thomson quipped that he is yet to have that discussion with his wife and said the race is a "huge commitment".

He told a press conference: "As a team we have progressed each time we have done this … I would certainly like the opportunity to take it to the next level."


From Belfast Telegraph