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Thinning the fleet

DEC. 5 — As Swiss sailor Bernard Stamm took line honors during the first leg of the Velux 5 Oceans Race, two British competitors arrived at Cape Town, South Africa, and officially retired from the race.

Mike Golding contacted race officials Monday morning to say he would no longer compete in the solo circumnavigation, according to information on the race Web site .

“The decision to retire has been a very difficult one and one that was taken in consultation with my sponsor, ECOVER,” Golding says on the site. “Clearly the timing and costs are a major factor, but from a competitive and safety standpoint there are additional factors that have finally led us to make this choice.”

Golding’s Open 60, ECOVER, suffered a broken mast in two places Oct. 21 as the sailor gave up second place to turn back and rescue fellow British competitor Alex Thomson. Pushing hard southeast of Cape Town Thomson’s yacht, Hugo Boss, suffered damage to her keel and capsized.

Weathering sleet, snow and 15-foot seas, and experiencing engine problems, it took Golding nearly two hours and four attempts to rescue Thomson from his life raft. Only hours later, ECOVER’s mainmast broke once about 5 feet above the third reef and on the first reef. Golding, with Thomson on board, arrived in Cape Town Dec. 1.

Defending champion Stamm on Monday completed the 12,000-mile first leg of the race — from Bilbao, Spain, to Fremantle, Australia — after 43 days, the Web site says. Four other sailors, including Sir Robin Knox-Johnson, were still competing.

— Jason Fell