Alex Thomson’s hopes of a maiden Barcelona World Race title have been shattered in the south Atlantic.
The Gosport sailor and his fellow IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss skipper, Pepe Ribes, were leading the event as they entered Brazilian waters.
But their race was unexpectedly cut short when their mast fell overboard 370 nautical miles off the coast of Brazil.
The boat and its crew are now heading for land at Salvador de Bahia in Brazil, before being transported back to the UK.
Thomson, who came second in the 23,000-nautical miles non-stop race in 2007, said he was ‘gutted’ to be returning home early.
‘We are both gutted, but on the bright side we are building a new boat in Southampton and we will pick ourselves up and try to win the Vendee Globe,’ said Thomson.
Stewart Hosford, managing director of Alex Thomson Racing, said: ‘After such a promising start to the 2014-2015 edition of the Barcelona World Race, this has come as a great shock.
‘We have been preparing for this race for over a year, but unfortunately in offshore racing this type of failure sometimes happens.
‘I now just want the skippers to get to safety and to recognise that they, and the team are very upset that this has happened, and to thank our team and our partners for their support.
‘Alex and Pepe were doing a superb job in this race and, having spoken to both of them, they are devastated that this rig failure has ended their race.’