Dalin first to finish Vendee Globe as title rival Herrmann collides with trawler

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Les Sables-d'Olonne (France) (AFP)

French skipper Charlie Dalin was the first competitor to cross the finish line in the gruelling Vendee Globe round-the-world race on Wednesday and then saw one of his chief rivals for overall victory suffer a heartbreaking collision with a fishing boat.

Dalin, on board Apivia, completed the epic race in 80 days, six hours, 15 minutes and 47 seconds, arriving at the French port of Les Sables-d'Olonne shortly after 1935GMT.

"We got there, we managed to do the almost impossible," said Dalin after his arrival.

"It really is a magical race. It's changed me, I don't know how yet!"

However, Boris Herrmann (SeaExplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco), who was running in third place but with the advantage of a six-hour time bonus, saw his chances potentially shattered.

The German skipper was just 90 miles from home when he was involved in a collision with a fishing boat at around 1950GMT.

"He reports damage to his starboard foil and some other damage but he is unharmed and has secured the boat and is proceeding towards the finish line at reduced speed," said race organisers.

Herrmann, and France's Yannick Bestaven (Maitre coq IV), who was in fifth, had been awarded time compensations for their roles in the dramatic rescue of stricken rival Kevin Escoffier off Cape Horn earlier in the race.

Hermann has a six-hour bonus while Bestaven has a 10hr 15min compensation.

Louis Burton (Bureau Vallee 2), and running second, is expected to finish between 2330-0000GMT.

Before news of his accident, Herrmann was scheduled to reach the end towards 0100GMT on Thursday.

The winner will eventually be known once Bestaven crosses the line between 0230-0430GMT.

Despite the drama of the finish, the homecoming will be a subdued affair with Covid-19 regulations restricting crowd numbers to 300.

The 28,000-mile race got under way on November 8 with 33 competitors but only 25 were still running on Wednesday.

Harsh weather conditions shattered any hopes that the race winning record time of 74 days and three hours set by Armel Le Cleac'h in 2017 would be broken.

Dalin, 36, had led for 60 percent of the race.

If Herrmann, taking part in his maiden Vendee, does prevail it will be the first time in its nine editions that the race has not been won by a Frenchman.

"I am a bit excited to be honest," said Herrmann before disaster struck.

"It is so strange. I can sit here and sail as well as I can but I cannot do anything else to control them. There is nothing I can do to force the boat to go any faster.

"The dice are thrown on the table. The cards have been laid. And they have been for a while. Tomorrow evening (Wednesday) we are going to know.

"It is the most exciting moment I can ever imagine. It is more exciting than I want or need. I am like a child at Christmas."

Organisers had predicted earlier Wednesday that Bestaven would finish 8hr 30min after Dalin who lost the lead in mid-December following serious damage to one of his foils but regained control after passing Cape Horn.

After losing the lead when he was becalmed in the doldrums, Bestaven has battled back and ramped up his speed over the last few days, converging on Les Sables d'Olonne from the west, rather than following Dalin and Herrmann from the south.

Burton also had many setbacks, even anchoring for almost 48 hours to fix the mast, before opening the throttle up the Atlantic to find himself near the front.

Behind him, Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil), the first disabled sailor to race the Vendee Globe, should cross the line in sixth position. But he could well lose this place in favour of Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam!).

Le Cam could in fact finish as high as third thanks to a 16hr 15min bonus for pulling Escoffier out of the Atlantic off the Cape of Good Hope.