Bestaven becalmed as Vendee Globe turns into five-yacht thriller

Paris (AFP) –


French skipper Yannick Bestaven still headed the fleet in the solo round-the-world Vendee Globe on Monday but his lead, which was over 400 nautical miles last week, has been slashed to just 12.

Bestaven's Maitre Coq IV was largely becalmed since Saturday while his rivals were blessed with better wind and closed the gap.

Charlie Dalin, sailing at 13.1 knots in Apivia, was just 12.4nm behind Bestaven at 1700 GMT Monday with the leader managing just 7.73 knots.

To his credit, Bestaven has 10hrs 15mins in his pocket -– the compensation granted for his role in the rescue of Kevin Escoffier whose boat PRB was "smashed up, the bow folded 90 degrees" while sailing through the Roaring 40s at the start of December.

Damien Seguin in Groupe Apicil was 72nm behind the leader after taking over third spot from Thomas Ruyant in LinkedOut who is a further 8nm behind.

Louis Burton in Bureau Vallee 2 has made up a lot of sea and is in fifth just 114nm behind Bestaven, making it a five-way chase to the finish at Les Sables d'Olonne in northern France.

The leaders are off the coast of Brazil heading north through the Atlantic, hoping to reach France at the end of January.

"I think for Yannick, who sees us coming back to him when he was way ahead, it must be tough," said Ruyant. "For us it is very gratifying."

The LinkedOut skipper had to climb his mast for a fifth time to repair his wind indicator after racing three days blind with no precise wind data.

"I wasted a lot of time with some minor issues but I'll be able to pick back up.

"The whole Vendee Globe has been like this, the race is far from over."

- 'All to play for' -

German skipper Boris Herrman, whose Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco is just over 200nm behind the leader in sixth, even sees a chance that he might become the first non-French winner.

"How fantastic for the race to be this close during the climb back up the Atlantic," he said.

"It really is all to play for, for all of us, even Yannick. You know, he's not miles and miles ahead as I can see from my screen, so the regatta is very much still alive, and each to our own to play the match.

"In the past, we've seen climbs up the Atlantic which have been less exciting, perhaps one or two boats clearly ahead, but here we have a real host of different boats which could make the podium places, four, five or six boats, with no doubt surprises still to come."

Of the 33 boats that set off from Brittany on November 8, seven have retired, the most recent casualty being Isabelle Joschke who abandoned on Saturday after a further failure of the keel canting system on board her IMOCA MACSF.

Leading race standings as of 1700 GMT, January 11

1. Yannick Bestaven (FRA/Maitre Coq IV) 4,756.6 nautical miles from finish, 2. Charlie Dalin (FRA/Apivia) at 12.4nm, 3. Damien Seguin (FRA/Groupe Apicil 72.0, 4.Thomas Ruyant (FRA/LinkedOut) 79.0, 5. Louis Burton (FRA/Bureau Vallee 2) 114.8, 6. Boris Herrmann (GER/Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) 201.9, 7. Benjamin Dutreux (FRA/OMIA-Water Family) 227.1, 8. Giancarlo Pedote (ITA/Prysmian Group) 261.6, 9. Jean Le Cam (FRA/Yes we Cam!) 281.5, 10. Maxime Sorel (FRA/V And B Mayenne) 425.3