Barring any major breakages or accidents, the first two Vendée Globe racers are slated to cross the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, sometime tomorrow. The race’s ‘golden boy’, François Gabart (MACIF), is on track to not only cross the line first, but to also break the world record by solo circumnavigating — his first time, by the way — in just 78 days. He’s averaged (averaged!) 15.2 knots since the start of the race. Astounding!
Armel le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire), who had been favored to win at the start, is more than 100 miles behind Gabart and, considering the weather forecast, has little hope of catching up. Here we have to quote today’s press release: "[His] main objective at the start was to do better than second but the world will agree that he has delivered a stellar, legendary performance on the track, and he is without doubt a world-class sailor. But it’s not over until it’s over and it’s not over yet."
Up-to-the-minute news reports will be posted at www.vendeeglobe.org/en.
Back at the Azores, Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) has yet to retire from the race after having lost his keel on Monday. He’s sailing well with water ballast and reduced sail, but conditions will be deteriorating soon. Consequently, Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) has changed course to remain close to Dick in case he has trouble. "He has not asked me to assist in any way," says Thomson, "but I really feel that I cannot sail off and leave him until I know that he is confident and has confirmed what his intentions are." Undoubtedly Thomson’s memories of being rescued by Mike Golding in the Southern Ocean during the 2006 edition of the Velux 5 Oceans are still fresh in his mind. While his diversion will not be likely to affect his shot at third place, it may put him behind his goal to be the first Brit to solo circumnavigate in under 80 days.