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Peyron out of Vendee after losing his mast

Dec. 10, 2008, 11:42 a.m. (ET)

LONDON(AP) French skipper Loick Peyron has been forced to abandon his bid to win the Vendee Globe round-the-world race after his yacht was dismasted on Wednesday while lying third.

He is the seventh sailor forced to abandon the race.

At or close to the front for much of the past month, Gitana Eighty lost its mast in the southern Indian Ocean while Peyron, the only skipper in the current race to have also competed in the very first edition in 1989, was down below.

“There was 30 knots of breeze and Gitana Eighty was under one reef mainsail and solent. There was no reason for the boat to be under pressure and everything was going very well aboard when the mast fell violently without any warning,” Peyron said in an e-mail to his shore crew. “I heard a massive bang and when I went up on deck I noticed that I no longer had a mast. I still have the boom and we're currently reflecting on how to proceed.”

Peyron will most likely use his boom to make a jury rig - a makeshift mast - to enable him to sail to a safe port, and is currently discussing the situation with his shore crew, the Gitana team said in a statement.

Gitana Eighty was roughly 180 nautical miles south of Crozet Island and about 650 miles from Kerguelen Islands when it lost its mast.

The Vendee, a single-handed race for men and women without any stopovers, set off from Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on Nov. 9 into strong winds and rough seas.

Thirty Open 60 race boats - hi-tech carbon fiber yachts built to be fast yet tough - began the race, but already seven have now been forced to retire due to damage.

The race takes the fleet around the three great capes - the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn - marking the southern tips of Africa, Australia and America.

Jean-Pierre Dick on Paprec-Virbac 2 currently leads the fleet, with Sebastien Josse on BT in second place.