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Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Vendee Globe: The finish is close

It's now probably less than 48 Hours to the end of the Vendee Globe. Not an unremarkable statement on it's own, but after over 24,000 nautical miles and over 72 days of sailing, the two boats out in the lead are only 72 nautical miles apart.

Alex Thomson in second place is closing in on Armel Le Cléac'h the leader. On the run up the Atlantic, Alex has closed a 500 nm deficit and still closes in on the leader with less than 48 hours to go to the finish.

In Vendee Globe terms, this is the equivalent of a photo finish. It may well be very close by the end, given that there is a tricky patch of weather between the sailors and the finish line at Les Sables d'Olonne which looks like forcing them up close to Ireland before they catch favourable winds down to the finish in Southern France.

So the last 48 hours will be all about routing: catching the best wind and conditions and keeping the pace of the boat up. The ridge of high pressure they are trying to negotiate has low winds in the centre, so they are trying to catch the higher clockwise winds on the outer edge of the anticyclone.

The thing is, do you cut East early, reduce the miles but suffer low winds, or do you head further North before heading South East to the finish, benefitting from higher winds but taking a longer route.

The fly in the ointment is Alex's boat is not so fast on starboard tack because he lost a foil (yes, these 60ft boats are foiling yachts!) in the South Atlantic on the way down South.

It's all to play for in the last 48 hours and Alex has a chance of being the first Brit to win The Vendee.

To get within 72nm after all those thousands of miles of sailing and in a compromised boat is an unbeleivable acheivement.

To me single handing the massive Hugo Boss yacht is a mighty achievement, I've seen it in the Solent and it's huuge.

Alex Thomson for BBC Sportsperson of the year 2017? I'll be voting at the end of the year! Even though the BBC has had little coverage of the event apart from a few small snippets on the local News.


Alex closed the gap over yesterday to be within 40nm of Armel. Currently Armel is taking a more Northerly route almost to the Scillies to keep in the higher winds. Alex is taking a more Southerly route, cutting the corner but taking the gamble that what should be lighter winds are not as light as the predictions indicate.

This really is amazing sailing. After over 24,000 miles and 70-odd days, the leaders could be minutes apart. It could even be closer! Do the Vendee Globe organisers have a commitee boat with a camera on it at the finish line? This could be a photo finish!


Looks like Alex had a nightmare of a night, having to fix a number of failures that slowed him right down compared to Armel. The sensors for his autopilot system being the most crutial. But he has no AIS as well, which tends to suggest electrical gremlins. Alex is now 90-odd nm behind the Frenchman and Armel is only 98nm from the finish. So unless he has some form of catastrophic failure, Armel Le Cléac'h is destined to become the winner of the 2016/2017 Vendee Globe Race some time later today.

Alex has now regained some speed, but he's too far away from the leader to challenge for the win if things continue as they are at the moment.

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