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 there 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 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, between 1930-2000GMT, with Burton rolling in around 2230-0000GMT.

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.

Herrmann was expected between 0000-0100GMT while Bestaven should finish around 0230-0430GMT on Thursday.

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.

"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."

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 predicted earlier Wednesday 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 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.

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 into port.

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