Golding had been considered Britain's best hope in the race
Britain's Mike Golding suffered heartbreak in the Vendee Globe round-the-world race when he was forced to quit hours after taking the lead.
His Ecover 3 yacht had edged ahead of Frenchman Jean-Pierre Dick when winds of 55 knots caused his mast to break.
"It basically went from being a near gale to a hurricane and the mast didn't like it," said Golding, 48.
"The whole rig is down, there is not even a stump left. I am gutted but there is not much I can do about it."
It is the second time Golding has had to abandon the race after also seeing his 2001 hopes wrecked by a dismasting.
This year's race started on 9 November and featured 30 yachts.
Southampton skipper Golding had made steady progress until he overtook Dick's Paprec-Virbac 2 - which had suffered rudder damage - for first place.
Three hours later, Golding's race finished about 940 miles south-west of Perth, Australia.
I managed to save the boom but have lost all my sails
"Once everything had settled down a bit, I went back out and the mast was lying across the deck and was acting as an anchor," he explained.
"When things stopped moving about dramatically, I set about cutting off the rig.
"I managed to save the boom but have lost all my sails, other than storm staysail, but this will probably fit and then I will have to work out how to fly something off the back of that.
"But whatever I do, I will only be able to reach and will not be able to go up or downwind."
The Vendee Globe is a non-stop event covering an average of 27,000 miles and Britain's Ellen MacArthur finished second in 2001.
Golding, who finished seventh in 2001 and third in 2005, was considered Britain's best hope of victory this year.