Sailor will be allowed to race after recovery

GOSPORT sailor Alex Thomson will compete in a non-stop round the world race when he has fully recovered from surgery for appendicitis.

Race organisers accepted an 11th-hour request from Thomson's Hugo Boss sailing team to allow a temporary skipper to replace him at the start of the two-handed Barcelona World Race today.

It was decided that Dutchman Wouter Verbraak will sail 60ft yacht Hugo Boss with New Zealander Andy Meiklejohn as his co-skipper until Thomson is fit enough to take the helm in around two weeks' time.

On Wednesday Thomson, 36, underwent emergency surgery to remove his appendix, placing a question mark over his involvement just 48 hours before the start of the 25,000-mile race.

Thomson said: 'I am thrilled to be taking part in the race after such a devastating setback so close to the start and would like to thank everyone who has made this possible from the race organisation to the excellent Barcelona World Race medical team.

Thomson's role in the race was already in question before his operation because his girlfriend, Kate Denham, is due to give birth to their first child on January 4.

The other British entry in the 14-strong top-class fleet is record-breaking yachtswoman Dee Caffari, 37, from Titchfield, who is the only woman to have sailed around the world non-stop and single-handedly, both with and against prevailing winds and currents.