Paris (AFP)

Five days before the finish of the Vendée Globe, Louis Burton is swooping down on Charlie Dalin at the head of the fleet on Friday, but Boris Herrmann has not said his last word either and the suspense remains with six boats separated by less than 150 nautical miles.

According to the organization's estimates, the first five or six monohulls are expected next Wednesday at the finish line of the round-the-world solo and non-stop off Sables-d'Olonne.

And the next three the next day.

An unprecedented group shot after 80 days of offshore racing.

If Dalin (Apivia) retains the leader's bib at midday, Burton (Office Valley 2) takes advantage of his strategic option further west, and significantly faster, to get closer to only 18.7 miles (30 km), which was around 150 miles (240 km) two days ago.

And, as for several days, Burton continues to advance faster than his opponent N.1 (almost 18 knots against a little less than 14 on average over the last 24 hours, or nearly 8 km / h difference), if although he could dislodge him from the top of the standings in the hours to come.

Even if the speed gap between the two boats has narrowed.

- "Elbow to elbow" -

But the duo, which have passed the Canaries, are not alone in the world: in Dalin's wake, Herrmann is only 65.1 miles behind.

And it's a trio that is taking shape less than 2000 miles from the goal.

"For the moment, I continue to lead my boat at a sustained but normal pace, we will have to decide the right time to start the sprint. I am neck and neck with Louis, there is Boris who is not not far behind, the finish promises to be quite close, ”explained Dalin during a session with the race headquarters on Friday.

"I'm flirting with high pressures, the conditions aren't super stable but I'm windy," said the Norman sailor, who has to deal with a failing left foil but can still count on all his sails. Boris, him, is positioned a little closer to the high pressures and can potentially have a little less wind. And Louis is still outside the turn and has more. "

"The outcome of the match between Louis and me is not yet very clear, we will have the answer in a few days, but I continue to adjust the boat as best I can to go as quickly as possible", he said. he concludes.

- "Unable to say who will win" -

Behind the leading trio, Thomas Rettant (LinkedOut), Damien Seguin (Apicil) and Yannick Bestaven (Maître Coq) are only 100 and 150 miles behind.

"It's going to be exciting, it's going to be a great regatta between the boats of the (first) group," said Burton.

Especially since in this group of six, two, Herrmann (6h) and Bestaven (10:15) will benefit from bonuses inherited from their participation in the rescue of Kevin Escoffier off South Africa in early December.

So it is not excluded that the winner will not be the one who crosses the finish line first.

"We have never had an edition with so many boats so close, insists the race director Jacques Caraës. This is why we have a particular finish. In general, at the end of the race, the sailors are rather sure. the reserve, conservatives, they want to finish and above all not to break anything. There, since we are unable to say who will win, and because there are these stories of time, they will all push to their limits. "

© 2021 AFP