Dalin leads five way sprint for Vendee glory

Les Sables-d'Olonne (France) (AFP) –


French skipper Charlie Dalin is expected to be the first to cross the finish line at the end of the solo round-the-world Vendee Globe on Wednesday but that is no guarantee that he will win the epic race.

The 36-year-old is leading a five-boat sprint for the line at Les Sables d'Olonne in Brittany, northern France, and is expected to arrive on Wednesday evening after 80 days and 28,000 often hazardous miles at sea.

But the result is complicated by the fact that two of them -- Boris Herrmann and Yannick Bestaven -- were awarded time bonuses to be given after the race for joining the search and rescue for Kevin Escoffier after his boat broke in two in the south Atlantic.

At 1100 GMT on Wednesday, Dalin's Apivia, which has led for 60 percent of the race, was just 128 nautical miles from home with a 62nm advantage over Louis Burton in Bureau Vallee 2.

Organisers have forecast that Dalin, taking part in his first Vendee, will arrive at Les Sables d'Olonne, where the race started on November 8, at around 1900 GMT, with Burton rolling in four hours later.

Both, however, could be upstaged by German skipper Boris Herrmann in Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco who was lying third, just 88nm behind Dalin but with a six-hour bonus for his part in the Escoffier rescue.

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

- 'Like a child at Christmas' -

"I am a bit excited to be honest," said Herrmann who was clearly relishing the adrenalin rush of an exhausting battle to the line on Tuesday night.

"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. I don't know if I have ever been so excited."

Thomas Ruyant in LinkedOut is fourth, 159 nm behind Dalin and almost certainly out of contention for the podium but fifth-placed Yannick Bestaven, who is 189nm off the pace, could steal through in Maitre Coq IV as he has a bonus of 10hr 15min.

Organisers predict that Bestaven will finish 8hr 30min after Dalin who lost the lead in mid-December after 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 Herrman 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 do the Vendée Globe, should cross the line in sixth position. But he could well lose this place in favor 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.

After crossing the line, sailors must go up the channel to return to the port but due to the tide, the boats will be blocked at sea from 1900-0100 local time and again from 0800 to 1400 Thursday.

The arrival will be behind closed doors due to the restrictions due to Covid-19 but a guard of honour made up of 300 volunteers, masked and four metres from each other, will be formed along the channel.

Of the 33 boats that started the race in November, eight have dropped out leaving 25 on course to finish.

Leading Vendee Globe standings at 1100GMT Wednesday:

1. Charlie Dalin (FRA/Apivia) at 128.8 nautical miles from finish, 2. Louis Burton (FRA/Bureau Vallee 2) 62.9, 3. Boris Herrmann (GER/Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) 88.7nm, 4. Thomas Ruyant (FRA/LinkedOut) 159.8, 5. Yannick Bestaven (FRA/Maitre Coq IV) 189.5, 6. Damien Seguin (FRA/Groupe Apicil) 280.0, 7. Giancarlo Pedote (ITA/Prysmian Group) 309.0, 8. Jean Le Cam (FRA/Yes we Cam!) 439.4 9. Benjamin Dutreux (FRA/OMIA-Water Family) 603.2, 10. Maxime Sorel (FRA/V And B Mayenne) 819.4