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At 700 miles from the line Dalin has the scent of solo Transatlantic victory

Sounding relaxed today when he spoke to Race HQ, his spirits buoyed even more by an unexpected visit yesterday from Vendée Globe winner François Gabart and a cheering ‘fan club’ crew on their cruising catamaran, French ace Charlie Dalin may smell the scent of victory but he confirmed today that he is pushing every bit as hard, racing his own computer generated projections, as he seeks to close out the New York Vendée Les Sables d’Olonne.

Charlie Dalin on MACIF Sante Prevoyance
Skipper Charlie Dalin works on the deck of
© Martin Viezzer - Disobey

Racing his Verdier designed MACIF Santé Prévoyance, Dalin has in effect twice the distance to go to the Nouche Sud buoy at the Les Sables d’Olonne finish line as he has miles in hand over second placed Thomas Ruyant (VULNERABLE). And while he says he is closely monitoring what should be a rapid downwind descent by Boris Herrmann (Malizia Seaexplorer) from north west of Ireland, he expects to finish first sometime late evening Saturday, with the German skipper still off Brest and likely to take second. 

Staying alert

But anything can happen. Dalin remains on high alert and the best way to remain vigilant is to keep pressing on, “I have been racing against myself for quite a while, always trying to beat my own routing and always following the other as well.” Said Dalin, “I see Boris is going to have some pretty tough conditions for a while, I am carefully following him and I see him probably offshore of Finistere, maybe Brest when I finish.” 

He confirmed, “I want to win, I am sailing hard, trying to make the right sail choices and the right course. The other group is good but Boris will emerge quite rapidly at fast downwind angles. I have about 470 miles in hand but that will reduce quite fast. I am keeping an eye on him all the time. I just hope I will still have something in hand at the end.” 

The spontaneous encounter with Gabart – whose company MerConcept manages the MACIF sailing projects – and his cheering crew was the perfect spur for the home straight. After winning the Vendée Arctic in early summer 2022, Dalin can contemplate being first into the legendary Les Sables d’Olonne Channel for a third time after also leading across the finish line of the last Vendée Globe.

Dalin smiled, “It was very cool. It was the first human beings I have seen since the start. It was great to have some people cheering for you out here in the Atlantic.” 

Saturday night fever?

“At the moment he will probably be on the line Saturday evening or during the night from Saturday to Sunday,” confirmed Christian Dumard, the weather consultant for the event. Looking to Herrmann’s fortunes he suggests “The anticyclone has shifted a little. Now he has wind and he will keep it until the finish” says the meteo specialist. 

“Over these past few days, I have spent all my time in front of the computer analysing each new file as it comes in. But the winds I have had here have never matched the models. And that has generated a lot of uncertainty and obviously some stress for me, but today I see things more clearly. Emotionally, I feel much better!” admitted the skipper of Malizia – Seaexplorer who has been through the gamut of emotions these past 72 hours or so. 

But he has been making more than 19 kts constantly although still waiting to make his last gybe SE. With the high moved slightly his latest route is more direct and not so close to Ireland. “At least now I know I’m going to be quick to the finish.” 

Podium scrap in both fleets

The battle for the podium will be close with just 20 miles between second placed Thomas Ruyant (VULNERABLE) and Sébastien Simon (Groupe Dubreuil), the ‘usual suspects’ in the match including Sam Goodchild (VULNERABLE) who has lost some small miles today. They are all into the building winds on the north west side of a small active depression. 

Eric Bellion is top of the daggerboard boats on his new David Raison designed Stand As One. He still has about 23 miles on Kiwi Conrad Colman (Imagine MS Amlin). And just as the battle for the places of honour is just as tight and exciting, boding well for the Vendée Globe. Canadian Scott Shawyer on his first solo IMOCA ocean race is proving his competitive drive in 16th.

Finally shaking off some of the accumulated fatigue caused by a late, difficult delivery to the USA which saw him only on land in America for 36 hours before he turned back solo, Colman said today, 

“I struggled to get my head in the game and see much joy in what I was doing but subsequently life has got a lot better and I have gotten some sleep and back into the match, it is all to play for and that is exciting and stimulating.” 

He recalled, “It feel good to have scrambled my way back into the leading group of daggerboard boats, I have put some good miles on the likes of Scott Shawyer for example. A couple of days ago we were neck and neck, side by side and he is now 73 miles behind and I have been able to get in front of James on Gentoo, he has just passed a couple of miles behind me after having had a couple of hundred miles lead on me and to be in the fight with Violette who is at the front of this group. So after having had a late delivery after first being held up by a late delivery from a supplier and then being held up more in unfortunate winds, it is testament to the fact we have turned this boat into a reliable and adaptable machine which is able to perform in all kinds of conditions is satisfying considering how much work we have done in the last couple of years.” 






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