LIVE: They're coming…
British sailor Alex Thomson today conceded that his chances of overhauling Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac'h on the home strait were slim, despite narrowing the gap to just 35 miles. In the last 24 hours Thomson, 42, has halved Le Cléach's lead of 70 miles but as the pair prepared to enter the final 300 miles of the solo round the world race this afternoon he said the advantage was now firmly with his French rival.
Thomson revealed that for several days now he has been battling problems with the wind instruments on his cutting-edge 60ft race boat Hugo Boss, which in turn have prevented the yacht's autopilot from working properly. In spite of knocking miles off Le Cléac'h's lead overnight he said he had not slept for two days and was now dangerously tired. Speaking to the Vendée Live show today Thomson said his thoughts were on getting Hugo Boss' anemometers working again rather than the impending finish in Les Sables d'Olonne, France. "I don't think I can catch Armel," he said. "The routing is very clear – we will go nearly to the Scilly Isles, wait for a left shift and when it comes we tack. There are no real options for me any more, I think my options have run out. It might be possible to catch a few miles but it's difficult for me at the moment. Until I can get my autopilot driving on a wind angle it'll be very tricky in the conditions I have. I can't imagine another few days like the last couple of days. I don't have any tension about the finish. I have tension about trying to make the autopilots work. I've got an anemometer in my hand and I'm trying to splice wires. I don't care about the finish right now, I just want to sleep.”
Le Cléac'h, runner-up in the past two editions of the Vendée Globe, might now be odds-on favourite to claim his first race win but he was not taking anything for granted as he prepared to tack and head down the west coast of France to Les Sables. The race mantra of 'to finish first, first you have to finish' will be ringing in his ears as he sails into his final night at sea in 74 days. “For the moment I'm holding my own against Alex,” the 39-year-old Breton said, “but the final 24 hours are going to be complicated. I'm going to have to be careful as there are a lot of dangers - we have been seeing fishermen and cargo vessels since yesterday. I'll be passing the tip of Brittany tonight, then going along the south coast of Brittany. I have to remain cautious to avoid doing anything stupid.” Le Cléac'h is expected to cross the finish line between 1300 and 1900 UTC tomorrow, barring any mishaps, with Thomson following suit around four hours later.
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Third-placed Jérémie Beyou said his routing software has calculated that he should arrive in Les Sables on Sunday evening, around three days behind the leaders. “Over the past few days I have been faster than expected,” said Beyou, whose podium position is secure for now with fourth-placed Jean-Pierre Dick trailing him by more than 1,000 miles. “The seas are not as cross and are more manageable. I'm trying not to think of the finish, as I still have the Bay of Biscay to deal with, and it's not looking very cooperative, as there won't be much wind, so I won't be advancing very quickly.” Seventh-placed Louis Burton will be the next skipper to cross into the northern hemisphere. At the 1400 UTC position update he was just 20 miles south of the Equator.