The French sailor Charlie Dalin maintained a thin lead when exhausted skippers entered the final hours of the Vendée Globe, locked in the most close battle in the history of the lone world.
After sailing more than 28,650 nautical miles, Dalin, aboard the Apivia, was less than 382.57 nm off Les Sables d’Olonne where the leading boats are expected to finish their marine odyssey on Wednesday.
The ninth edition of the sailing “Everest” may still have a first non-French winner ever. The German skipper Boris Herrmann in the Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco was only 82.02 nm behind Dalin at 1700 GMT.
Even if Herrmann fails to renovate Dalin at the line, he could still end up on the winner as he is awarded a six-hour bonus for his part in rescuing Kevin Escoffier outside the Cape of Good Hope in December.
Louis Burton (Bureau Vallee 2) was third 132.2nm off first, followed by Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut), 230nm off pace and Yannick Bestaven (Maitre Coq IV) another 36nm back in fifth.
Bestaven, like Herrmann, helped save Escoffier’s and will receive a 10-hour bonus in 15 minutes when he makes it to port.
While Dalin and Herrmann had taken a more easterly route, the three following boats were further north and farther west, moving faster. The three pursuers had all covered more seas in the previous four hours than the two leaders.
Dalin had traveled just under 42 nm during that time, while Bestaven, who took a longer route, had traveled almost 80 nm.
Bestaven said he was looking forward to goals.
“I’m very happy to finish already because we’ve been around the world for 79 days or almost 80,” he said. “Having such a dense and breathless finish, it’s true that it’s exciting, but also strenuous, so as not to hide it from you, we’re pressing hard on the boats here, so we can not wait until it’s ready.”
For Dalin, dry land is still a distant dream.
“It has been so long that I have been at sea that I have forgotten that there is life on land. I am so used to being here on Apivia that I find it impossible to believe that the surface is close,” says Dalin.
For race director Jacques Caraes, the winner could be determined with “a few minutes” after about 28,000 often dangerous miles at sea.
“This is completely unique,” he said.
Ruyant’s team manager Marcus Hutchinson told Vendee’s website that he hoped his sailors would win but enjoyed the drama.
“Here we are 24 hours or so from goal and we just do not know how this is going to go through,” said Hutchinson. “So thanks to all these skippers, they’ve made this an incredible sports game we’ve never seen in this race.”