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Yannick Bestaven, the 48-year-old French skipper of Maître Coq IV, is the overall winner of the ninth edition of the Vendée Globe. Although he actually took the gun for third place off Les Sables d’Olonne, France at 03hrs 19mins 46 secs early this Thursday morning, because he carried a time compensation of 10 hours and 15 minutes, awarded by an international jury for his role in the search and rescue of fellow competitor Kevin Escoffier, Bestaven takes victory 2hrs 31mins 01secs ahead of Charlie Dalin and 6hrs 40mins 26secs of Louis Burton who both finished ahead of him and take second and third respectively.

The skipper of Maître CoQ IV was one of the two skippers who led the fleet for the longest time: 26 days, or 32% of the time an excellent result for the skipper who grew up in Arcachon and has Yves Parlier as his mentor.

Bestaven finished in Biscay drizzle on a two-metre swell in 20 knots of westerly wind before being warmly welcomed back to Les Sables d’Olonne’s channel where well wishers lined their balconies and streets to acclaim the new winner of the Vendée Globe.

After 80 days at sea, Yannick Bestaven holds the Vendee Globe trophy aloftAfter 80 days at sea, Yannick Bestaven holds the Vendee Globe trophy aloft

‘My main quality? "Stubbornness". My main flaw “Stubbornness”. "I also am very resilient " admitted Bestaven before the start.

Although he was not tipped among the fancied, possible winners of the race, Bestaven revealed himself as an outstanding performer on his first time in the southern oceans where he was at his best in the Indian Ocean, passing Australia’s Cape Leeuwin in third place and then in the Pacific, emerging first at Cape Horn with a 15 hour lead.

After then building the biggest margin of the race, 440 hard-earned miles thanks to a smart climb up the South Atlantic, Bestaven must have thought his chances of winning this Vendée Globe were over, when during three frustrating days all but becalmed south of Rio, he saw his margin evaporate like snow in the hot Brazilian sun.

But the skipper from La Rochelle on the west coast of France, an engineer as well as professional skipper, proved his race winning credentials as he fought back into contention by the Azores. His final, key move proved to be choosing to head north on the Bay of Biscay which allowed him to arrive on the heels of a low pressure system and accelerate faster on a long, direct track into Les Sables d’Olonne over the last 24 hours, chasing Dalin and Burton across the line to hold his time to win outright.

Over an ocean racing career spanning nearly 20 year Bestaven has tasted success in the Mini class – winning the Mini Transat in 2001 – and then in Class 40 where he twice won the Transat Jacques Vabre. But, after he was one of the first to be forced out of the epic 2008 Vendée Globe when he was dismasted on the Bay of Biscay less than 24 hours into the race, he has taken his time to return to the Vendée Globe with a well appointed programme which saw him put together a small, hand picked team of specialists from all fields including the America’s Cup. He is also a successful entrepreneur who owns and runs Watt & Sea, a company which develops hydrogenerators fitted to most of the competing IMOCAs.

Although, in the 2015 VPLP-Verdier designed Maitre Coq IV which was built as Safran, his boat is not one of the latest generation foilers, he was able to maintain high average speeds in the south and remained competitive in more moderate conditions.

The ninth edition of the race saw a record entry of 33 skippers and has been marked by complicated weather patterns for both the descent down and the ascent back up the South Atlantic, including regrouping of the leading pack in persistent period of light winds early in the Pacific, and again off Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Difficult, short, crossed sea conditions in the Indian Ocean meant the newest, most powerful latest generation foilers could not sail to their full speed potential. And two of them, Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut and Charlie Dalin’s Apivia both suffered different damage to their foil systems which compromised their speed potential on starboard tack.

The most dramatic moments of the race came on the 22nd day of racing, November 30th when PRB, the IMOCA of third-placed Kevin Escoffier broke up suddenly 640 miles SW of Cape Town.

Escoffier was forced to abandon into his liferaft in minutes. Four skippers were requested to reroute help locate and rescue Escoffier. Although 61-year-old veteran Jean Le Cam was first on the scene and got close to Escoffier it was 11 ½ hours later when Le Cam was finally able to rescue the stricken skipper from his liferaft.

The international jury announced their time compensations on December 16th at six hours for Germany’s Boris Herrmann, 10hrs and 15 mins for Bestaven and 16hrs and 15 mins for Le Cam. Little then did race watchers realise that this redress would ultimately decide the final winner after the closest, most competitive race finish in history, the first three skippers crossing the line in less than eight hours.

Germany’s Boris Herrman was in contention for a podium position until he struck a fishing boat at 90 miles from the finish line. He is bringing his Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco to the finish at reduced speed.

Podium of the ninth Vendée Globe:

1 - Maître Coq IV (Yannick Bestaven), finished 28/01/2021 03:19:46 UTC.
Elapsed time 80d 13h 59min 46s.
Time compensation : -10h 15min 00s,
Offical corrected time : 80dj 03h 44min 46s.
Average speed on the theoretical course: 24 365.74 nm / 12.60 kts.
Miles sailed 28 583.80 nm at an average of 14.78 nds

2 – APIVIA (Charlie Dalin) finished 27/01/2021 19:35:47 UTC.
Elapsed time 80d 06h 15min 47s
No time compensation.
Time difference to first 02h 31min 01s
Average speed on the theoretical course: 24 365.74 nm / 12.65 nds
Miles sailed 29 135.01 nm at an average of 15.13 nds

3 - Bureau Vallée 2 (Louis Burton) finished 27/01/2021 23:45:12 UTC
Elapsed time 80d10h 25min 12s,
No compensation.
Time difference to first 06h 40min 26s,
Time difference to APIVIA 04h 09min 25s
Average speed on the theoretical course: 24 365.74 nm / 12.62 nds
Miles sailed 28 649.99 nms at an average of 14.84 nds

"I feel like I'm living a dream, hallucinating. You go from total solitude to this, to this party, to these lights, these people who are there despite the complicated context, I don't realise what's going on. I'm still in my race. It's a child's dream.

The north of the Bay of Biscay was the best option for my boat and the sails I had left. I had to go and find the two low-pressure fronts.

It wasn't good to be the first in this Vendée Globe. But I managed to pull myself together and regain some ground on Charlie (Dalin) enough to make up the time, it was an amazing regatta.

I always believed I could do it, but in what position? I thought I would win at Cape Horn, but then I thought that if I finished 25th, then that would be good enough. We prepared a lot for this Vendée Globe, I knew I had a reliable boat and I was able to pull it off.

The weather conditions meant that it never started from the front, it always bunched up, it was often tight. It has been historic.

You have to look deep down inside yourself. These boats are stressful, noisy, and life on board is difficult. There is also loneliness sometimes...

This result is beyond my expectations. I imagined living many things, I have lived many others. After having fought as I have fought, bringing a victory to Maître CoQ IV is a dream!"

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At 1950 hrs UTC this evening while racing in third place, some 90 miles from the Vendée Globe finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne, German skipper Boris Herrmann (SeaExplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) came into collision with a fishing boat.

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.

The collision damaged the race yacht, so Herrmann could only continue at a reduced speed. Boris himself was uninjured, and there were no casualties on the fishing trawler either.

"Suddenly I saw a wall next to me, the boats got tangled up, I heard men shouting," Herrmann reports. His vessel's bowsprit was broken off, its headsail torn, and the starboard hydrofoil was damaged. Most critically, the starboard shroud broke off, the cable that secures the mast and stops it from falling over. In the hours following the collision, Herrmann worked feverishly to replace the shroud in order to reach his final destination safely.

In a video message, Boris Herrmann recounts the collision that shattered all dreams of a German victory. "I have never experienced anything like this at sea before," Herrmann said, "but the most important thing is that no one was hurt."

The collision is another test in the toughest race in the world, but not one that will keep Boris from seeing it through to the end. On Thursday morning, the 39-year-old skipper from Hamburg plans to sail his ship across the finish line off Les Sables d'Olonne, after 81 days at sea. Onshore, his wife Birte, his daughter and his team are already eagerly awaiting his return and proud of his great achievement.

Published in Vendee Globe

After an immaculately executed race, at 20h 35m 47s UTC this evening, 80 days 6hrs 15 mins 47 secs since the start on Sunday 8th November, French skipper Charlie Dalin emerged from a damp, misty Bay of Biscay to break the finish line of the Vendée Globe, the solo, non-stop round the world race, in first position and in doing so realised the ocean racing dreams of his youth.

But the 36-year-old skipper of APIVIA, who on Sunday November 8th started as one of the favourites to win this ninth edition of the Vendée Globe, now has to wait until two of his closest rivals have crossed the Les Sables d’Olonne finish line to see if victory is his.

Both Germany’s Boris Herrmann and French skipper Yannick Bestaven were allocated time allowances of six hours and ten hours and 15 minutes respectively for time and distance lost during their participation in the search for, and rescue of, stricken Kevin Escoffier whose IMOCA PRB effectively broke in two suddenly on November 30th, 550 miles SW of Cape Town, South Africa.

Although the win may end up going to one of the other two skippers – and the clock started when Dalin crossed the line - nothing can detract from Dalin’s immaculate, measured performance.

He has been the most regular and consistent leader throughout the 24,300 nautical mile race – which follows the traditional three capes route. His well prepared and optimised boat was launched early in the race quadrennial to maximise training miles. Dalin served notice he would be a serious contender when he won 2019’s Transat Jacques Vabre with Yann Eliès and finished second in July’s 3566 mile Vendée Arctic Les Sables race.

Dalin led at the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Leeuwin, and was a second to rival Bestaven at Cape Horn. That was despite damage to the bearing part of his port-side foil housing which meant his performance was compromised on starboard tack at least since he reported the problem on 14th December.

When he made a well-executed temporary repair, Dalin, who qualified as a naval architect in Southampton, England, kept himself in the race and still managed to offset the speed deficit he had on his closest challengers.

Slowed to a crawl for 18 hours he fulfilled a detailed repair plan developed in conjunction with his shore team who had sent accurate drawings of the replacement carbon composite chock he had to cut out and insert into the foil housing from the outside of the boat.

To complete the repair, he had to hang over the side of his boat on a halyard.

“I was going back and forwards between the cockpit and the foil exit location on the hull,” Dalin reported. “I was suspended by a halyard to reach the point where I could fit the chock and I don’t know how many times I went back and forth – 30 or 40 times – to adjust the carbon piece to fit the foil case.”

After rounding Cape Horn in second 15 hours behind the leader, on the tactical climb back up the South Atlantic he led the chasing peloton to recover more than 400 miles on runaway leader Bestaven who was snared in a light winds zone just south-east of Rio de Janeiro.

Although Dalin is a first timer on the Vendée Globe, like Bestaven and Herrmann among others - and indeed new to racing in the hostile southern oceans - his outstanding asset was sheer consistency, sailing carefully assessed, low risk strategies, smooth courses and manging himself and his IMOCA well.

Dalin’s Race

Aboard his latest generation Verdier designed boat, he briefly took the lead in the race on 11th November to the NE of the Azores. Limiting the risk to himself and his boat so early in the race, he chose to stay west and round tropical storm Thêta, the detour costing him around a hundred miles. It took him several days to regain the ground he lost, as he continued on his way down through the North Atlantic.

But when he crossed the Equator, he was already in the leading trio behind Britain’s Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss and France’s Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut. The trade winds in the Southern Hemisphere enabled him to express the full power of his foiler with several days of high-speed sailing, including notably on the 20th November, when he covered almost 507 miles. When they rounded the St. Helena high, Alex Thomson was forced to stop to carry out repairs and Dalin took the lead.

He led the fleet at high speed across the Southern Ocean when he topped the rankings for 22 days. He was the first to pass the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Leeuwin followed by Thomas Ruyant, Louis Burton and then Yannick Bestaven.

An outstanding sailor of his generation who has been on the Solitaire du Figaro podium four times and won the last Transat Jacques Vabre, he fought hard to defend his position, going as far as to hide his technical problem to avoid giving any advantage to his rivals. The damage to the port foil box was only revealed on 14th December, although he had clearly slowed down from 10th after coming out of severe gales shortly before Cape Leeuwin.

On starboard tack, Apivia was slower and was finally overtaken on 15th December by the two chasing boats, LinkedOut and Maître Coq. Dalin clung on to his place in the leading trio during the Pacific crossing. He was the second skipper to pass Cape Horn and played it brilliantly in the strategic battle as they climbed back up the South Atlantic regaining more than 400 miles from Yannick Bestaven to take the lead again on 12th January off Brazil.

The position of leader would then swing between him and Louis Burton. In the climb back up the North Atlantic in the trade winds and rounding the Azores high, which was positioned a long way south, Charlie remained much further east than Louis and went on to lead almost continuously to the finish line.

Charlie Dalin, the sailor

Although not from a sailing family, Dalin grew up in Le Havre, enchanted by the top skippers and their racing machines which mustered in the Channel port every two years for the two-handed coffee route transatlantic race from Le Havre to Brazil. His early racing career progressed along a traditional pathway, learning resourcefulness and self-reliance in the Mini650 class - in which he finished second in the 2007 MiniTransat – before he marked himself out as one of the outstanding talents of his generation in the Figaro offshore one design class, finishing four times on the La Solitaire du Figaro podium, third in 2014 and 2017 and second in 2015 and 2016.

Dalin shone initially in dinghy classes at the Le Havre club, recalling the formative thrill of sailing a double handed 420 dinghy on his own from the trapeze wire.

A natural perfectionist who sets himself very high standards and the possessor of a fast processing, numerate mind, Dalin graduated from the Skipper MACIF talent programme which backed him on the Figaro circuit, before being selected as skipper of a new Guillaume Verdier designed IMOCA.

He follows perfectly in the wake of François Gabart who won the 2012-13 Vendée Globe race in the MACIF Groupe’s colours and whose company MerConcept now manages the APIVIA IMOCA project.

America’s Cup winning designer Guillaume Verdier, who designed Dalin’s boat, remarks: “Charlie is just a superb strategist. He measures break even points well to evaluate the risk he is willing to take. And that is also what we tried to do when designing the boat.”


Dalin raced the theoretical course of 24,365 nautical miles course at an average speed of 12.65kts
He actually sailed 28,268 miles at a race average of 14.67kts

The great passages

Equator (outwards)
Third place on 11/18/2020 at 21:03 UTC after 10d 07h 43min of racing
Cape of Good Hope
1st on 11/30/2020 11:11 UTC after 22d 09h 51min of racing
Cape Leeuwin
1st on 12/13/2020 11:25 UTC after 34d 22h 05min of racing
Cape Horn
2nd on 03/01/2021 04:39 UTC after 55d 15h 19min, 14hrs 56mins after leader Yannick Bestaven
Equator (back)
2nd on 01/16/2021 20:11 UTC after 69d 06h 51min, 59 minutes behind Louis Burton

Number of top rankings (Vendée Globe official rankings): 200

APIVIA November 11 21:00 UTC to November 12 04:00 UTC so 07:00 00:00
APIVIA November 23 08:00 UTC to December 15 04:00 UTC so 21d 20h 00min 00s
APIVIA December 25 08h00 UTC to December 26 04h00 UTC so 20h 00min 00s
APIVIA January 11 21:00 UTC to January 13 04:00 UTC so 1d 07h 00min 00s
APIVIA January 13 11:00 UTC to January 16 17:00 UTC so 3d 06h 00min 00s
APIVIA January 16 21:00 UTC to January 24 08:00 UTC so 7d 11h 00min 00s
APIVIA January 25 04h00 UTC to January 27 11h00 UTC so 2d 07h 00min 00s

Dalin said:

“I am happy to have finished the race in the lead! And this is still an pretty incredible from nothing to this! I knew there would be some people, but I am surprised by this welcome. It is a magical race. It has changed me, I am not sure how yet, but it has. There are so many emotions, of such strength, things I have not felt before. It is so strong, I do not know how it will affect me, but for sure it will.”

“There are lots of ups and downs on the race with lots of things to fix, but it is wonderful experience. I have been through the Indian Ocean, the Pacific and past Cape Horn! the other day I went over my course, and it is incredible to all I have done, and I can remember all the manoeuvres. It is incredible how many things I have done. It makes me tired to think that I did all that. Stage by stage you end up doing the impossible!"

“The toughest thing was to lose my port foil box casing when I was in the lead. You see the water coming in and the alarms start going and I was checking the foil and realised I had lost the casing that guides it and called my project manager. That was a hard time. I thought I would find myself ending up Australia or New Zealand and I managed to work round the clock with the carbon, a whole day that was tough, then the storm in the Indian Ocean which was rough and tough and complicated. The race was beautiful, a great battle with Thomas, with Louis at the end and with Yannick."

Published in Vendee Globe

With less than 80 miles to the finish line of the Vendée Globe solo non-stop round the world race the leader Charlie Dalin (APIVIA) is expected to complete his race around 1800-1900hrs UTC.

French skipper Dalin, 36, who was one of the outstanding favourites to win, has been the 24,400 nautical mile race’s most consistent, regular leaders may not, however, win the race outright.

Because they lost time when they were rerouted late on 30th November – 22 days after the race start - to assist in the search and rescue of fellow competitor Kevin Escoffier, two rival skippers Germany’s Boris Herrmann and Yannick Bestaven were given a time compensation. Herrmann has six hours of compensated time and Bestaven 10 hours and 15 minutes.

And so Dalin will have to watch the clock count down to see if he has won. The final winner of the race will only be decided in the small hours of Thursday morning. Herrmann is expected in second or third between midnight and 0200hrs UTC, he is 30 miles behind second placed Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) this afternoon, but the winds are not expected to remain steady in strength and direction all the way into Les Sables d’Olonne.

Bestaven needs to finish within four hours and 15 minutes of Herrmann if he is to overhaul the German skipper and this afternoon was 74 miles behind making 18.4kts. And so this ninth edition of the race could go down to the last manoeuvre or sail change.

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While most of us may think the actual winner of the current Vendee Globe will emerge in the next day or two from among the ranks of Charlie Dalin, Boris Herrmann, Louis Burton, Thomas Ruyant, and Yannick Bestaven as they fine-tune their downwind progress in the Bay of Biscay towards the finish at Les Sables-d'Olonne, it's arguable that the real winner is already comfortably ensconced at home in Brittany, and has been since last Saturday.

For last Saturday afternoon saw the leaders of the mighty race miss the record of 74 days 3 hours and 35 minutes set by Armel Le Cleac'h with Banque Populaire VIII on January 19th 2017. Yet at the time, the '20-'21 leaders were still struggling to find the optimum route through the obtuse bit of ocean between the Azores and Iberia. And while it's probably going to be the most exciting finish ever seen in the race, it won't be a new record.

Yet with eight completely new boats in the fleet of 33 IMOCA 60s with their foil development moved several generations forward since 2017, a new record in a four-yearly event of this nature should be a natural part of the outcome. Certainly, before it all started, Alex Thomson of Hugo Boss was suggesting that they all should be aiming to get around under 70 days and that even 60 days was theoretically possible.

But the global pandemic meant that preparation and testing of the newest boats - and any new gizmos fitted to older craft - was limited, such that among the race-exiting breakages were those sustained by Hugo Boss.

Armel Le Cleach celebrates his third overall victory in the Figaro Solo, September 2020Armel Le Cleach celebrates his third overall victory in the Figaro Solo, September 2020

That said, in the early stages of the race, the tracker charts showed the relative position of Banque Populaire VIII back in 2016. They clearly indicated that while the current fleet was having a messy time getting down the Atlantic, four years earlier Armel Le Cleac'h had been steadily going like a train – and a fast train at that. Thus his daily positions started being embarrassingly far ahead of the current fleet, and by the time he was looking to show nearly a week ahead down in the Southern Ocean, the postings of his relative position seemed to disappear from any tracker charts we could access.

Back in December 2016 and January 2017, Le Cleac'h had his own difficulties with contrary wind patterns in getting northward along the east coast of South America. But even though this stage in '20-'21 saw the current leaders making lots of knots in a drag race, they still weren't able to cut Banque Populaire VIII's performance down to size, and now it's well beyond them.

So this is a good time for Breton sailing. And it's arguable that Armel Le Cleach – now 43 – is the most accomplished single-handed offshore racer currently operating anywhere in the world at the sharpest end of the sport. For although he opted out of the Vendee Globe 2020-2021, he threw himself instead into the full maelstrom of the Figaro Solo 2020. And he was the overall winner of that too – for the third time.

Thus if he's not feeling very relaxed at the moment, then he certainly should be. And meanwhile the Battle of Biscay – or should we call it the Grind of Gascony – is being played out to its final stages – Tracker Chart here

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Passing the latitude of Lisbon, Portugal this morning, Vendee Globe Race leader Charlie Dalin is in control of a very tight three-way fight at the moment, converging fast with Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) who should be about 30 miles behind when they cross gybes. And Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) is some 37 miles behind Burton in third.

Clearly, in these conditions and in to the finish, weather and sea conditions being close to forecast, Dalin’s latest generation Verdier design with its big foil should be fastest and the 37-year-old who grew up in Le Havre, France is the line honours favourite.

But he needs to be more than 10 hours and 15 minutes ahead of Yannick Bestaven (Maître Coq IV) and six hours ahead of Herrmann, so every fraction of a knot that Dalin can find might prove vital, he has absolutely no latitude for small mistakes or failures during the next 48 hours to the finish line. Every mile gained just now at 19-20kts can compensate for a slower miles as the breeze eases closer to the finish line. In contrast, Burton has been slower overnight making just 12-13kts while Herrmann has been around 15-17kts.

Bestaven is 232 miles behind him. Do the math. Right now that is just enough for Dalin whereas he needs time and distance on ‘Der Schakal’ – Herrmann – who right now has his time on the race leader, on Burton and also his time (net 4hrs 15mins or call it 90 miles) differential on Bestaven.

Right now the two key weather problems are a transition zone off Cape Finisterre and that the last miles into Les Sables d’Olonne will be lighter, maybe just 10-12kts.

The forecasts do seem to show more breeze coming in in the north and so this finish is very, very finely balanced, Bestaven’s option may give him the extra wind he is seeking and the transition area is smoother offshore.

Meantime Alexia Barrier on TSE 4 My Planet and Ari Huusela on STARK crossed Cape Horn. Barrier passed at 2155hrs UTC and ‘Super Happy’ Huusela, the first sailor ever from the Nordic nations to race round solo, passed the landmark at 0119hrs. Jérémie Beyou crossed the equator back into the northern hemisphere at 0405hrs UTC and Isabelle Joschke has arrived safely in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

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Less than 1000 nautical miles to the finish of the ninth edition of the Vendée Globe in Les Sables d’Olonne and it is still too close to call, not least as the Saint Malo maverick Louis Burton seized the race lead from Charlie Dalin in the late morning today.

Burton, 35, who finished seventh on the last edition of the Vendée Globe was computed to have a lead of just over five nautical miles from the Apvia skipper Dalin. As the leaders split gybes today, Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV) in fifth was first to opt for a northerly route, seeking to sail up to hook into the stronger winds of a low-pressure system. He will sail more miles but could come in to Les Sables d’Olonne faster from the north.

Germany’s Boris Herrmann, in third, gybed around 1000hrs UTC this morning and Burton about 90 minutes later leaving Dalin to sail slightly further east before he too turned Apivia north, finally on to his favoured port gybe. For the first time in nine days or more the race’s most consistent leader will be able to lift off his fully-functioning starboard foil.

Keenly focused and barely masking the obvious mounting stress as he seeks to convert the most consistent, blemish-free race of the current top five to a huge race victory Dalin said on this morning daily video call, “I am looking forwards to getting on to port gybe to use by starboard foil and to make some speeds which reflect the true potential of my boat.”

Bearing in mind he might take line honours but be usurped by one of the two closest skippers who are in possession of time compensations, when he was asked if his destiny was still in his hands he replied, “It is a bit down to what the others do as well. But all I can is sail as well as I can and we will see how it ends. Boris is very close to me but the route is still long, it is still open, but once I am on port tack I will be able to be fast again.”

The suspense on shore – which will be heightened even more on the water – is all the more because there are notable differences in timings and evolution of the key weather features predicted by the main models, as expert Christian Dumard observed today, “The main weather models used by the skippers in this area (GFS, ECMWF and Arpege) do not all give the same results. There is still significant uncertainty for the outcome of this race.”

Charlie Dalin and fourth-placed Thomas Ruyant both alter their routes to account for their respective damage to their port foils and others select options and angles best suited to missing or damaged sails.

The lateral separation between Bestaven and Dalin was already over 500 miles this afternoon.

The skipper from La Rochelle who led the race coming back up the South Atlantic by more than 420 miles will sail more miles but spend more time faster in the strong winds and may yet spring a surprise return to the podium, not least as he carries 10hrs 15 mins of redress time.

Dumard concludes, “The wind will ease in the morning of the 27th on the Bay of Biscay with the passage of a small ridge and so it is still very difficult to make predictions on a possible winner or even on a precise ETA on the day of the 27th for the first boats.”

Captain Courage

Damien Seguin skipper of of Groupe APICIL had elected to communicate less over recent days and focus more on his race. Lying seventh Seguin managed to get around the Azores High with a very clean, smooth route before being one of the first to gybe north. His performance on a relatively unfancied Finot Conq design from 2008, albeit carefully prepped and optimised with advice and help from Jean Le Cam and Yoanne Richomme, has been nothing short of remarkable, a mix of incredible drive and guile.

The multiple Paralympic champion who was born without a left hand has long since done enough to be proud of his performance, grinned widely this morning, saying on a dodgy video connection, "No one imagined a boat with a straight daggerboard could be in this position".

Seguion then revealed he has not had certain downwind sails since he entered the Pacific! "I'm trying to manage as best I can. It's been a month since it’s been like that! “

In the final sprint his objective is sixth or better, not least trying to get ahead of Itallan Giancarlo Pedote who is racing a foiling VPLP-Verdier design which finished fifth on the last race in the hands of Jean Pierre Dick.

Good News For Pip

Speaking on the English live show today Leslie Stretch the CEO of Medallia, Pip Hare's sponsor, revealed his delight with the English skipper’s project and the return the his US headquartered Silicon Valley company.

Connecting with 18th placed Hare he chuckled, “What’s next Pip? Let’s get to the end and go shopping for a new boat shall we? Let’s do that!” Wearing her trademark megawatt smile, Hare responded: “I have learned so much from this race. This always was me going out and establishing where I was. To take this boat and race in the way that I have in this race has just re-affirmed I definitely want to come back in 2024 with a more modern boat and to be at the front of the fleet. There is so much I have learned, there is so much I could do better. I love the way the opportunities keep coming up and keep coming up. And now I am struggling because it is straight line sailing and my immediate competition are all foilers. But who would have thought that 75 days in I could still be competing with foiling boats. Every single second of this race has been an amazing opportunity and I am so focused on 2024. It is amazing.”

Alexia Barrier was approaching Cape Horn this afternoon due to round early this evening but despite 40kts gales was becalmed momentarily while Ari Huusela is only 20 miles behind and should round around 90 mins later.

Tracking the finish

At 200 miles from the finish line, the race trackers will be updated every 30 minutes and then every 5 minutes from 60 miles from the crossing.

Note Redress Times

Time redress to be credited to three skippers after they cross the finish line.
- Boris Herrmann (SeaExplorer - Yacht Club de Monaco): 6 hour redress
- Yannick Bestaven (Maître-CoQ): 10 hours and 15 minutes redress
- Jean le Cam (Yes We Cam!): 16 hours and 15 minutes redress

Ranking 17:00 UTC

1. Louis Burton [ Bureau Vallée 2 ]—> 897.07 nm from the finish
2. Charlie Dalin [ Apivia ] —> 12.67 nm from the lead
3. Boris Herrmann [ SeaExplorer - Yacht Club de Monaco ]—> 49.48 nm to leader
4. Thomas Ruyant [ LinkedOut ] —> 128.95 nm to leader
5. Yannick Bestaven [ Maître CoQ IV) —> 262.08 nm to leader

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As the Vendee Globe leaders pass the Azores the leading skippers are starting to play different options. Behind the top group, Yannick Bestaven and Damien Seguin were first to gybe and are heading north in search of the stronger breeze.

In second place Louis Burton is passing between the islands of San Miguel and Santa Maria which he should see to starboard after sunrise. The skipper of Bureau Vallée 2 should be in winds of around than 20 knots which has meant that Burton has been at 18.6 knots more than a knot and a half more than Dalin who must be itching to gybe, to get on to his starboard foil and open distance to his pursuers. After his blip yesterday morning the skipper from Saint-Malo seems more consistent again and making 414 miles in 24 hours compared with Dalin’s 388.

Meantime in third place, Boris Herrmann is tracking Dalin closely, perhaps looking like he has marked the most consistent leader of the race as his key rival and so best to try and mark him, to stay closest to his wake, not least in the knowledge that he has six hours of compensated time.

Yann Eliès noted last night "Once the Azores ridge has been crossed and delivered its verdict the skippers can’t help running numbers all the time making time and distance calculations. We can see strategies in their course Boris feels he had better 'suck the wheel' and stay in Charlie's wake as he has better speed. "

For sure in this situation in any sailboat race the convention is to stay with your strongest rival and here Herrmann cannot or does not hope to mark Burton – who he should be faster than, same as any thoughts of covering Bestaven – and Thomas Ruyant is on his hip and, until they gybe, slower.

Bestaven conceded distance in fifth the skipper of Maître CoQ IV is 212.5 miles off the lead, fifty more than 24 hours ago. His strategic choice of the northern route is different from the first four. If the routings play out he will pass through the north of the Azores, between Horta, Velas and Santa Cruz de Graciosa on his left, and Angra do Heroismo on his right. His objective is to stay on the edge of the depression climbing all the way north to the latitude of the south of Brittany before slanting back down to Les Sables. His proximity to the low, his compromised sails and his 10 hours and 15 minutes of time all are factored into his decision.

In terms of distance to the finish Italian skipper Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group) is up to sixth place in the standings at 257.6 miles. He is to the south but already at the longitude of the Azores he has the better of Damien Seguin (Groupe APICIL) who, last night gybed go due north on the routing similar to that of Yannick Bestaven.

In 24 hours, the gaps have widened considerably especially for those heading north who are sailing more parallel to the layline rather than towards the finish. Seguin is now 268.7 miles behind, against 159.1 yesterday at the same time, Jean le Cam, eighth this morning is now at 572.6 miles, and Benjamin Dutreux is at 666.4 miles. And so, increasingly, in these final days of the race, the expected hierarchy of speed potential is finally coming more and more into effect, the straight daggerboard boats slower and the more recent foiling boats faster and more efficient.

Three times winner of La Solitaire du Figaro and fourth on the last Vendée Globe Yann Eliès observed, “ There are pitfalls to be avoided getting into the North Atlantic depressions, that is never easy to negotiate because they are always worse than the models predict. I don’t think they’re expecting a big, big gale, but they can still get caught out in the harsh weather and seas three weeks after leaving the big south. It’s different too because the nights are long, unlike in the south. They are in complete darkness for long periods. It’s a tough end to the race, because you think we are getting towards the finish line, but the conditions in the North Atlantic and Biscay can still cause damage. Charlie in particular, I feel like he is in his way. Everything that external to around the race you need to shut out. For me, I would tend to postpone everything when it comes from the outside world, the messaging groups, the requests for interviews, the videos. The external world wants to know, but I think skippers want to staying in their bubble, as focused as possible on what to do and not to take lift their heads until the finish line. One of the big difficulties at this point in this race is not projecting ahead to what will happen after the line. The demands will be more and more pressing. But this race about now is about victory. And to win first you have to finish. This means that the rhythm is intensifying: eating, sleeping, every minute working your boat counts. You enter a tunnel that is no longer just the Vendée Globe that we have known with the "clac clac clac": you have to deal with the really pressing, important things in terms of performance and getting across the line and shut out the external noise.”

Ranking at 24 Jan 2021 - 08h

1. Louis BURTON.  BUREAU VALLEE 2 Dist. to finish 1118.59 nm (2071.63 km)

2. Charlie DALIN,  APIVIA, Dist. to leader 4.18 nm (7.74 km)

3. Boris HERRMANN, SEAEXPLORER - YACHT CLUB DE MONACO, Dist. to leader 35.55 nm (65.84 km)

4. Thomas RUYANT, Dist. to leader 89.95 nm (166.59 km)

5. Progression Yannick BESTAVEN, Maître CoQ IV Dist. to leader 218.39 nm (404.46 km)

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With just five days or under 2000 miles to go until the first skippers finish the ninth edition of the Vendée Globe the outcome still hangs in the balance. Today and tonight Charlie Dalin and Louis Burton of France and Germany’s Boris Herrmann have the chance of making a small but potentially decisive breakaway from the hard chasing group of six solo skippers, their small advantage could grow over the weekend. Meantime, at the back of the fleet, France’s Alexia Barrier and Finland’s Ari Huusela face the toughest moments of their race yet as they are set to round Cape Horn over the weekend in 40-45kt winds and big seas.

Dalin-Burton-Herrmann are the standout trio going into the last weekend

If they are able to sail clear first from a high-pressure ridge and connect with a small secondary low-pressure system, leader Charlie Dalin (Apivia), Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) and Germany’s Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) will be rewarded by the chance to jump ahead of their rivals and perhaps establish enough of a gap to ensure they finish on the podium. But the timing to catch this little weather system is critical. Miss it and they will be left behind.

There is still every chance that Herrmann can become the first ever non-French winner of the Vendée Globe, or indeed to match the results of his close friend Briton Alex Thomson who finished second in 2016-17 and third in 2012-13, Mike Golding who was third in 2004-5 or Ellen MacArthur, runner up to Michel Desjoyeaux in 2000-2001.

Speaking on the English Live show to Italian ocean record holder Giovanni Soldini who he has sailed more than 30,000 miles with – the equivalent of more than one lap of the planet with Herrmann warned.

“The next hours are very critical. It could be in the next six to 12 hours the race could be pre-decided. If I can keep a good breeze and speed, I am right now doing 16-17kts, if I can keep this with a good course to the NNE and can soak into the stronger breeze to the north of this high pressure if I can line up in that breeze and keep the same distance to Charlie then that would be a big relief. The opposite here is if the wind eases off and I get stuck 70 miles behind Charlie and they get away then things would work out very differently. Thomas Ruyant, Damien Seguin and Yannick Bestaven are all on a very nice line and if I suddenly see them going 16 knots that can very quickly change the place between third and sixth place. Nothing is decided today. It is incredible to have a kind of restart five days before the finish. It is incredible. I am looking forwards to gybing north and then getting into the bigger seas 4-5 metre waves like back to sailing in the Southern Ocean a bit.”

Race leader Charlie Dalin, just 65 miles ahead of Louis Burton this afternoon, also coolly highlighted the likelihood of "a close finish".

"The outcome of the match is not at all clear but I will just continue to sail as well as possible". Remarked metronomically regular Dalin who has been the most consistent leader throughout the race, topping the standings on 199 rankings including today, the 75th day of racing.

And while the next five days of racing will be the most exciting and closest watched of any edition of the Vendée Globe yet, the first boats to finish could be in the early hours of the 27th, some positions on the final podium may yet be decided by the subtraction of the time allowances allocated by the International Jury to sailors who helped in the search and rescue of Kevin Escoffier between November 30th and December 1st after Escoffier’s boat broke in two. Herrmann carries six hours to be subtracted from his race time, Yannick Bestaven 10 hours and 15 minutes and Jean Le Cam 16 hours and 15 minutes.

Therefore the podium and other places may be decided by the subtraction of these redress times after the finish line.

Behind the current three leaders, the pursuers are unlikely to benefit as much from the low pressure systems. “They will continue to sail to the North,” says Christian Dumard, the Vendée Globe meteorologist. “And if they can't get to the first system, they should benefit from the second system which is much larger."

Italy’s Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group), in seventh is part of this group, confirms: “We are going to continue heading north to follow the rotation of the wind. And as soon as we get out of this high pressure area, we will hook into the winds from the low to race downwind and reach to Sables-d'Olonne. Nothing is ever decided until the finish line.”

Giovanni Soldini said : "Boris is a great sailor, he is maybe a little bit German but he has a nice spirit, he is a great guy and we have had a lot of experience together. I am so happy to see him going so well in the Vendée Globe. I think Boris is perfectly in the race I know he has studied very well the situation with the meteo. He has sailed a great race especially good in the Southern Ocean to come out with the perfect boat with no damage and that is the key. He works well with the boat and tries not to break anything. It is a great success to have the boat."

Alexia Barrier & Ari Huusela, a Cape Horn worthy of their Vendée Globe

At almost 6000 miles behind the leaders approaching Cape Horn Alexia Barrier (TSE - 4myplanet) and Ari Huusela (STARK) are facing particularly tough conditions as they prepare for a challenging exit from the Pacific Ocean after eight days of hard sailing in squalls, rain and even hail. They can expect 40-45kts of wind and five metre seas.

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The race at the front of the Vendée Globe Race is electrifying. None of the eight previous editions has ever witnessed a race finish as open and intense. Right now the leading skippers are trying to get their heads around a do-or-die sprint to the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne which has now less than one week to run.

Even the most informed of France’s pre-race race prognosticators did not project a podium finish for the maverick 35-year-old from Saint Malo Louis Burton, but most avid race watchers now see the skipper of Bureau Vallée as having a small lead as he is furthest north and faster than his nearest rivals.

Even if the rankings have him fourth this evening – as he is to the west of his rivals - it looks like he may be first to round the Azores high pressure and connect with the low pressure express train to the finish line.

“He can be into the southwesterly winds first and benefit from a lane through the high-pressure corridor with a more constant wind flow and then with a more sustained better angle than his pursuers,” suggested Sébastien Josse the weather consultant for the Vendée Globe. “The others will be more downwind, forcing them to manoeuvre more. Louis could stay in the same flow as far as Les Sables d'Olonne and be in several hours ahead at the finish."

But the leader on the rankings Charlie Dalin says the two will re-connect, “We will meet again under the Azores and we will have to do a series of gybes and sail changes, there is still a lot of work to do before the finish!"

As the tension builds and time counts down to the finish, the skippers are feeling the pressure like never before. Thomas Ruyant continues to be quick but the skipper who originates from Dunkirk, Normandy was clearly frustrated that with no port foil he will be compromised during the final sprint and may lose out.

“I knew the Atlantic climb was going to be complicated with a lot of starboard tack,” he told the radio session this morning. "With a compromised boat it is difficult and frustrating not to compete with those around me on equal terms. But here I am, I take my troubles patiently and hold on to a competitive spirit. In a few days, the downwind conditions will allow me to stabilize things a bit. There might be less of a performance gap so I'll do everything to keep in touch."

Germany’s Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) has progressively recovered miles since his passage across the Doldrums and is back pacing the leaders mile for mile, quickest on all of today’s measures and looking like he has the potential to finish across the line in a podium position.

“It is pretty bouncy in the trade winds. Boris is looking forward to getting into the high pressure system and getting into the lighter regime to really make sure he in the best shape for the finish sprint. He is intent in really looking after himself these next couple of days. He is very even headed and in a good place in his head. The breeze is dropping sooner than expected and you can see Louis is into light winds already,” commented Herrmann’s usual co-skipper Will Harris.

Predictions have the leaders arriving into Les Sables on the 27th January with as many as six boats arriving on the same day.

Ranking at 17:00 UTC

1. Charlie Dalin [Apivia ]—> 2353.26 nm from the finish
2. Boris Herrmann [SeaExplorer - Yacht Club de Monaco] —> 114.04 nm from lead
3. Thomas Ruyant [ LinkedOut ] —> 118.96 nm from the lead
4. Louis Burton [ Bureau Vallée 2 ]—> 143.91 nm from the lead
5. Yannick Bestaven [ Maître CoQ IV ] —> 171.83 nm from lead

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