Herrmann closes on Vendee leaders and prepares for 'drag' finish

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Paris (AFP)

German skipper Boris Herrmann pumped his chances of becoming the first ever non-French winner of the solo round-the-world Vendee Globe when he moved up to third on Friday, just 37 nautical miles behind leader Charlie Dalin.

The 37-year-old from Hamburg was the quickest of the top group overnight Thursday, running at 17 knots at 1400 GMT Friday, benefitting from his decision to run his Seaexplorer Yacht Club de Monaco vessel slightly further offshore than Dalin's Apivia and second-placed Louis Burton in Bureau Vallee, who is 19nm off the lead.

Just over 3,800 nautical miles remain of the 24,000-mile course as skippers sail off the eastern tip of Brazil on day 68.

Herrmann, taking part in the race for the first time. has also benefitted from the pair of larger, new generation, working foils on his IMOCA 60, which were upgraded last March.

Fourth and fifth-placed Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) and Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) are also contenders, the latter following in Herrmann's wake.

"It’s a little bit more liveable today," said Herrmann.

"The extreme heat I was suffering from a bit yesterday is better. The wind is also lifting and I'm at the angle where the foil works best -- that’s why you’re seeing this stepping up in speed.

"What we see at the moment is a drag racing mode. It is a flat sea and good conditions for everyone to go fast the next six or seven days.

"I know (Dalin's) Apivia is really strong downwind, a bit stronger than us, so that remains the favourite of the race for sure."

- 'Fighting' Paralympian -

Erstwhile leader Yannick Bestaven in Maitre Coq IV, who was over 400nm ahead just a week ago, has slipped back to sixth place but remains only 105nm behind Dalin.

"Morale-wise, it's hard," he admitted.

"I haven't been lucky. I couldn't gain enough in the east to keep a lead on my pursuers, and then it was much easier for them to move off in strong winds.

"I found myself downwind of them, without being able to get into the same wind as them, and that pissed me off. It was better to come from behind!"

Seguin, who has no use of his left hand and is a double Paralympic sailing champion, took an offshore, easterly position up the coast of Brazil and lay just 60nm behind the leader on Friday.

"I am not too badly positioned," he said.

"I have been fighting for two days to win this position, which wasn't easy. And today it is bearing fruit.

"We're almost 70 days into the race and the equipment is starting to show signs of fatigue.

"But if it continues as it has been, I should have a result that I didn't imagine at the start."

Dealing with breaking equipment along the physical course has become a Vendee Globe staple for racers -- seven of the 33 starters, including early leader Alex Thomson, have already pulled out.

Last week 17th placed Brit Pip Hare had to replace the rudder of her boat Medallia whilst at sea.

"Solo sailing is all about ups and downs and the Vendee is renowned for offering a rollercoaster of a ride to anyone reckless enough to participate,” Hare commented.

"But nothing readies you for that mixture of feelings when things start to take a turn for the worse."

After the repair, water once again seeped aboard the Medallia, leaving Hare having to make further adjustments.

"A few hours later I was greeted by the sight of the Chilean coastline," she recalled.

"I saw the sunshine for the first time in 10 days and if that wasn’t a sign of hope -- then I don’t know what else it could be."

Leading race standings as of 1400 GMT, January 15

1. Charlie Dalin (FRA/Apivia) 3,759.9 nautical miles from finish, 2. Louis Burton (FRA/Bureau Vallee 2) at 19.0, 3. Boris Herrmann (GER/Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) 37.5, 4. Thomas Ruyant (FRA/LinkedOut) 55.3, 5. Damien Seguin (FRA/Groupe Apicil) 60.6, 6. Yannick Bestaven (FRA/Maitre Coq IV) 105.3nm, 7. Benjamin Dutreux (FRA/OMIA-Water Family) 173.9, 8. Giancarlo Pedote (ITA/Prysmian Group) 189.2, 9. Jean Le Cam (FRA/Yes we Cam!) 231.0, 10. Maxime Sorel (FRA/V And B Mayenne) 557.3