Solo yachtsman Alex Bennett is back on dry land after being forced to ditch his stricken boat 600 miles out in the Atlantic.

Alex, 25, spent Christmas with his parents, David and Ginny, at their home in Cuckfield, near Haywards Heath, where he recovered from his ordeal at sea.

He was sailing single-handed back to Britain from Brazil and had travelled two-thirds of the distance when he reported a problem with the hydraulic system on board his ship, One Dream, One Mission.

With the boat crippled and gale force conditions threatening, he was forced to abandon the craft. He was picked up two hours later by a German freighter which responded to his distress call.

He was taken to Trinidad and flew back to Heathrow in time for Christmas.

The dramatic rescue came just three weeks after Alex had tasted victory in his first international race, the 4,340-mile Transat Jacques Vabre, from Le Havre to Brazil, with co-skipper Paul Larsen.

Alex described how, without any warning, a sudden squall hit the boat and, in a wind of 20 to 30 knots, it heeled over and accelerated to 16 knots in the darkness.

He said: "Then I heard a huge bang. I thought we'd snapped the keel and, as the boat pitched up at a crazy angle, I climbed up on to the highest side.

"With all hell breaking loose, I released as many sails as I could and she came upright again. The keel was left swinging wildly."

Alex pulled alongside the approaching freighter and leapt on to a rope swing which the crew had dangled down for him to reach.

He said: "It's really unfortunate to lose the yacht. It's almost on a par with losing a family member in my book but it's one of those things.

"There's not much I can do now but relax and take things easy for a few days. I haven't had a day off for the last eight months so it's nice to just spend time with my family and friends.

"Thankfully I wasn't hurt but since I've been back I've picked up a nasty cold, probably because I'm back in such a cold climate."

Alex has no plans to reassess his career.

After a few days relaxing, he will go back into training for the Round Britain Race in June before deciding whether to attempt his first solo around-the-world race in September's Around Alone challenge.

His father David said: "He was obviously very upset about losing the boat but when it's a life and death situation like that you've got no choice.

"It goes without saying we were delighted to have him back for Christmas - he just ate and ate."