LONDON (AP) – British skipper Alex Thomson’s yacht capsized in the Southern Ocean during the Velux 5 Oceans solo around-the-world race Thursday and a rival sailor turned back to rescue him.

Thomson’s yacht capsized early Thursday, but he was not hurt. He was trying to repair a damaged keel when he finally abandoned ship.

Mike Golding of Britain, who was in second place ahead of Thomson, responded to a request for assistance and turned upwind to pick up Thomson. Thomson said he is 1,000 miles south of Africa, with the closest land the uninhabited Prince Edward Islands, according to the race’s Web site.

He said he has stopped the keel swinging, but he’s expecting severe winds. In rough conditions, he said the keel could swing into the boat and sink it.

“I have spoken to Mike and it is very kind of him to come and help,” Thomson told organizers by satellite phone. “He is making his way here as quickly as possible and I just hope he gets here in time.”

Thomson communicated by phone at 6:30 p.m. local time. He estimated then that Golding was about 70 miles away. Considering the wind, he thought it would take Golding six hours to arrive.

Thompson said he was napping in his bunk when he was suddenly thrown across the cabin, according to organizers.

“The boat was leaning right over on its side with the (mast) spreaders in the water,” he said.

Thomson said he was in touch with his shore crew, trying to find a way to regain control of the keel. He had been closing in on Golding when the keel broke free.

The 35,000-mile race has been has been held every four years since 1982. The fleet left Bilbao, Spain, on Oct. 22. The first leg is to finish in Fremantle, Australia, in early December. The race ends in Bilbao in April.

As of Wednesday, defending champion Bernard Stamm was leading. He was followed by Golding, Thomson, Kojiro Shiraishi, Robin Knox-Johnston, Graham Dalton and Unai Basurko.


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