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

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 northern French port of Les Sables-d'Olonne shortly after 1935GMT.

"We got there, we managed to do the almost impossible," said Dalin, 36, after his arrival.

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

He added: "I have been through the Indian Ocean, the Pacific and past Cape Horn. It's incredible how many things I have done. It makes me tired to think that I did all that."

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 (160km) 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.

Just before 0000GMT, Bestaven was looking a strong prospect for victory.

Officials said he was making 18 knots, needing only to average 13.5kts to overhaul Dalin.

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 -- 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.

- First non-French winner? -

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.

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 may even finish as high as third thanks to his 16hr 15min bonus for heroically pulling Escoffier out of the Atlantic off the Cape of Good Hope.

Escoffier had sent out a mayday signal and abandoned his yacht as it snapped in two, sinking in seconds.

Le Cam, 61, rushed to the rescue but after initially spotting Escoffier in a life-raft, lost sight of him as night fell.

Le Cam unrelentingly scoured the seas for long, desperate hours before finding his compatriot again and dragging him aboard.

Five days later a French naval frigate caught up with the pair and Escoffier was taken to safety.

Le Cam was in fourth place at the time of the nail-biting rescue but fell back to sixth.

Earlier in the race, Alex Thomson's bid for glory had ended in a retirement.

Britain's Thomson, one of the favourites to win the solo round-the-world race, had to nurse his Hugo Boss vessel back to port in Cape Town.

Third in 2012/2013 and runner-up in 2016/2017, Thomson had carved out a commanding lead.

Jeremie Beyou, on board Charal, and also a pre-race favourite, was another early casualty.