French skipper Charlie Dalin approached the Cape of Good Hope on Sunday with an increased lead in the Vendee Globe over Thomas Ruyant and, one of his main rivals Alex Thomson, out of the race.
Sailing at around 19 knots, Dalin’s Apivia is expected to pass the southern tip of Africa in the lead on Monday, an impressive performance for a skipper taking his first crack at the single-handed non-stop round-the-world race.
Dalin stretched his lead over Ruyant’s LinkedOut who had closed the gap overnight Saturday despite a damaged foil.
The 39-year-old Ruyant is now more than 300 nautical miles (560 kilometres) behind the leader but they both face difficult conditions as they head into big seas south of the Cape.
In their wake lies the oldest of the Vendee skippers, the 61-year-old Jean Le Cam whose 13-year-old boat Yes We Cam! is not equipped with the foils that enable the two leading boats to rise on top of the waves and find extra speed.
Le Cam was temporarily knocked off his podium position by Kevin Escoffier (PRB) but regained third spot on Sunday morning and holds a narrow 10nm advantage.
Not far behind them, a peloton leading back to the German Boris Herrmann in eighth is heading towards the Indian Ocean.
“At the moment, we are moving fast and it is a change from what we have been through in recent days,” said seventh-placed Sebastien Simon who should cross the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope in his boat Arkea-Paprec on Tuesday.
“You have to get used to it again because it is not very comfortable. You get wet very quickly and you have to hold your nerve because it is going to last a few days.”
– Beyou across the Equator –
After 21 days at sea since leaving Les Sables d’Olonnes, neither Dalin nor his competitors will succeed in breaking Thomson’s 2016 record of reaching the Cape of Good Hope in only 17 days and 22 hours.
The Welsh skipper, though, is out of this race.
One of the favourites at the start and the early dominant leader, Thomson retired on Saturday after several days spent carrying out repairs in a desperate bid to keep his boat Hugo Boss on target. He is now on his way to Cape Town.
It was Thomson’s third retirement in five Vendees and increases the likelihood that the ninth edition of the race, just like the previous eight, will be won by a Frenchman.
Thomson was the second skipper to retire following Nicolas Troussel in Corum L’Epargne after eight days following a dismasting off Cape Verde, leaving 31 in the race.
Jeremie Beyou (Charal), one of the other big favourites at the start of the race, suffered damage early on and had to return to Les Sables d’Olonnes to make repairs, as he was entitled to do.
He remains in last place but crossed the equator on Sunday morning, advancing at a good speed and closing the gap on the rest of the field.
Leaders Sunday 1100 GMT:
1. Charlie Dalin (FRA/Apivia) 18,091.1 nautical miles from the finish, 2. Thomas Ruyant (FRA/LinkedOut) at 305.7nm, 3. Jean Le Cam (FRA/Yes we Cam !) 353nm, 4. Kevin Escoffier (FRA/PRB) 362.7nm, 5. Yannick Bestaven (FRA/Maître Coq IV) 395.9nm, 6. Louis Burton (FRA/Bureau Vallee 2) 407.8nm, 7. Sebastien Simon (FRA/Arkea-Paprec) 422nm, 8. Boris Herrmann (GER/Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) 452.7nm, 9. Damien Seguin (FRA/Groupe Apicil) 520.2nm, 10. Giancarlo Pedote (ITA/Prysmian Group) 572.2nm