British sailor Thomson abandons Vendee Globe after damaging rudder

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FILE PHOTO: British sailor Alex Thomson poses next to his IMOCA 60 yacht "Hugo Boss" moored in London

(Reuters) - Briton Alex Thomson has been forced to abandon the Vendee Globe round-the-world sailing race after incurring damage to the starboard rudder of his boat, his team announced on Saturday.

Thomson was looking to become the first non-French winner of the 24,000 nautical mile non-stop race aboard the HUGO BOSS but damaged the rudder 19 days into the race.

The team said Thomson, 46, had disconnected the starboard rudder and had been sailing with just one rudder before they decided to stop racing and asked him to sail the boat to Cape Town.

"Unfortunately, a repair is not possible. We therefore accept that this will be the end of the race for us," Thomson said in a statement.

"Myself, my team and our partners are of course deeply disappointed. We believe the best was yet to come in this race."

Thomson, who had also been forced to stop earlier this week to make repairs on damage to the bow area before rejoining the race, is currently around 1,800 nautical miles from Cape Town and is expected to arrive in seven days.

Held every four years, the Vendee Globe is an endurance race that begins and ends in Les Sables D'Olonne in France.

Thomson finished runner-up in the 2016-17 edition despite damaging his hydrofoil 12 days in, finishing nearly 16 hours behind Frenchman Armel Le Cleac'h who won with a record-breaking time of 74 days, three hours and 35 minutes.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Frances Kerry)