Blink and you’ll miss it… After some 2,700 miles of racing in the inaugural Vendée – Arctique race, the race leaders are blazing into the finish at more than twenty knots with victory still up for grabs. As of yesterday when the leaders rounded the final ‘Gallimard’ waypoint, five boats were still in contention for the race win.
Then three, and now it looks like just two. As of this writing at 7:30 AM west coast time, Jeremie Beyou onboard Charal is holding a slim lead over Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut as the pair are locked into a thrilling match race towards the finish while reaching in 15 knots. Flat out with little chance for a final tactical home run, Beyou and Ruyant are still engaged and swapping the lead in a battle that has lasted the entire race thus far.
The final step on the podium will likely be filled by Apivia and skipper Charlie Dalin, creating a clean podium sweep for these three new-generation boats that have, generally speaking, led the fleet around the race course. All three are looking very fast and very well sorted in the build-up to the ninth Vendée Globe.
Nipping at the leaders’ heels however is Samantha Davies on Initiatives Couer with Kevin Escoffier on PRB not far behind in fifth; an impressive showing for this pair of 10 year old boats that have been constantly updated and very successfully campaigned over the years.
After sailing a two-time Vendée Globe winning boat to a very impressive fourth place finish in her Vendée Globe debut, and again getting her hands on a two-time podium finisher in Initiatives Couer (formerly Banque Populaire VI and Maitre Coq), the fastest woman on the water has to be feeling pretty good about her upcoming chances in the next Vendée Globe. Same goes for the Trophée Jules Verne and Volvo Ocean Race-winning Escoffier, whose two-generation old PRB looks to be plenty competitive with the front runners, though this course lacked the long heavy-air downwind conditions that will make up a lot of the Vendée Globe.
Had Boris Hermann on Sea Explorer – Yacht Club de Monaco and Isabelle Joschke on MACSF not suffered mainsail headboard and boom issues, respectively, we could have seen an even more compressed fleet roaring into the finish in Les Sables d’Olonne, with the IMOCA class showing not only incredibly close and exciting racing, but also good parity among the newer and older boats in the fleet.
There’s still anywhere between 100 and 500 miles to go for the competitors, so plenty could still happen, so keep following the tiny boats on your screen as virtually everyone is still battling for position. – Ronnie Simpson.