Image: Photo sent from aboard the boat Seaexplorer - YC de Monaco during the Vendee Globe sailing race on January 21, 2021. (Photo by skipper Boris Herrmann)
It is still too close to call. And it likely will be for much of this final morning racing for the leaders. Louis Burton in third this morning noted the discrepancy between what the weather models are forecasting and what he has on the Bay of Biscay, the yellow bow of Bureau Vallée 2 pointed a Les Sables d’Olonne some 315 nautical miles in front of him.
On his southern option, working closer to the Galician coast leader Charlie Dalin has made five gybes in the last 130 miles, since passing to the north of Cape Finisterre and. Although Dalin grew up in Le Havre and lives in Brittany he is absolutely in his offshore racing backyard, on the arena where so many La Solitaire du Figaro stages have taken him to and from the north coast of Spain.
The skipper of Apivia leads by only 49 miles from Boris Herrmann whose course is about 30 miles to the north of Dalin’s.
There is nothing in it at all. Herrmann has six hours compensation to deduct from his elapsed time, so in essence Dalin needs 120 miles of cushion or a bit less and had 230 miles left to race at 0530hrs UTC.
Yannick Bestaven has 10hrs and 15 minutes of redress and so to beat him Herrmann needs four hours and 15 minutes between him and the skipper of Maître Coq. Right now there is computed to be 125 miles but Bestaven – at 440 miles to the finish - is bringing the wind in, racing at 21kts. Latest computer predictions have Dalin on the line early evening, French time, between about 1700hrs and 1900hrs perhaps and some of the corrected margins will be in minutes, for sure.
Who will get the advantage on this nerve shredding final sprint? It's difficult to say because everything will depend on the direction and strength of the breeze in the final hours (the last sixty miles). On paper, the southwesterly wind blowing on the Bay of Biscay will take on a more westerly direction for the last two hundred miles blowing above fifteen knots. But closing to land it might ease to a dozen knots, which suggests that the solo sailors will probably have to do one, two or more gybes under a spinnaker, that is.....if they took one and if it is still operational. The end of the course might be a relatively slow cliffhanger.....
Boris Herrmann in second this morning reported at 0530hrs UTC. “It is pretty warm when you are doing manoeuvres out here. I was working to change from the big gennaker to the small gennaker and I got so slow because I was hot. I took my top off. I said it is a day before the finish, take some risk to be wet! And it did not take long to be completely soaked from head to toe. Water all over me! One lumpy wave coming from the side, stacking at the back of the boat and there you go. I was a bit slow during the last hour doing the manoeuvre, it took longer than I had wanted. It is pitch black dark right now. I don’t know how to do it quicker. There is a bit of tiredness for sure but now I am set up small gennaker one reef and the boat is accelerating to 27kts at times, I have 25kts of wind off Finisterre right now and it should last like this until the end. I will do some more weather now.”
And, last night, “I am a bit excited to be honest. Well, well, well. It is so strange here. We are committed here. The other guys go in the north. And it is so hard to predict. It is so strange. I can sit here and sail as hard as good as I can but I cannot do anything else to control them. It is not there is anything you can do, to force the boat to go any faster. You can just pick the smart moment to gybe, you can sheet your sail a bit more, be a little more efficient. So the dice are thrown on the table. The cards have been laid. And they have been for a while. Tomorrow evening 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.”