09 February 2021 - 16:46 • 8747 views

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After 93 days of racing on the Vendée Globe there is a head to head, France v Switzerland match race for 17th place. Racing in near identical Finot Conq IMOCA Stéphane Le Diraison and Alan Roura have been duelling within two miles of each other with just 500 miles to the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne. The duo have past history together, this tussle reprising the end of the 2018 Route du Rhum transatlantic when the young Swiss skipper got the better of his French rival.

At one stage after being close together in the South Atlantic Roura jumped on a low pressure system and left Le Diraison hundreds of miles behind, as the skipper of Time for Oceans remained in the light winds of a messy high pressure ridge which would not free him into the big south. Built as Hugo Boss Le Diraison’s boat has started the Vendée Globe three times and never finished yet while La Fabrique was Armel Le Cléac’h’s Brit Air which finished second in 2008.

"I can see you, we'll be side by side soon and we can even have a coffee together," laughed Alan Roura. La Fabrique and Time for Oceans are so close that the two skippers are sailing in sight. When Le Diraison was speaking to Race HQ today the AIS alarm warning was audible, alerting him to his close proximity to the Swiss skipper who is set to finish his second consecutive Vendée Globe.

“We are side by side, it's quite strange. Of course we were together in the Indian Ocean two months ago. We had different conditions, different problems here are there and here we both are finding ourselves in the same system in the race to the line.”

 Roura adds: "We are very close and it is great sport, we have to stay very awake and pay more attention. It's a great fight! But we have to play it intelligently until the end so as not to damage our boats".  If the two keep up the match they could repeat their Route du Rhum finish, 7th (Alan Roura) and 8th place (Stéphane Le Diraison) only separated by 4 minutes and 43 seconds, but this time Le Diraison us out for revenge.

ETAs no one before Thursday
Christian Dumard, the Vendée Globe meteorologist, explains: “The ETAs have slipped. The wind is quite variable, the low shifts quicker to the south and the four" - Arnaud Boissières (15th), Kojiro Shiraishi (16th), Stéphane Le Diraison (17th), Alan Roura (18th) - should thus arrive upwind or close hauled now. The skippers of La Mie Câline-Artisans Artipôle and DMG MORI Global One are expected early Thursday morning after the coldest night of the week. "There will be a very cold wind, 15 knots of wind and up to -8 ° C felt between 1 am and 6 am," warns Dumard.

Pip Hare finding it tough and feeling like she is not getting closer to Les Sables d’Olonne
The 47 year old English skipper of Medallia admits that this final stage into Les Sables d’Olonne is proving desperately tiring. Winds are variable between 20 and 45kts in squalls and the seas are messy and she is constantly working to change sails and keep pushing.
“I never thought I would say I miss the southern oceans but they were not as hard or disorganised as this.” Hare said today. She is due to finish Thursday night into Friday.

Manuel Cousin has repaired
The skipper of Groupe SETIN has managed to fix his keel in the central axis "I had to work 48 hours non-stop to be able to repair and find a system allowing the keel to be held in the middle position," explained Manuel Cousin. “I'm back on my way towards Les Sables d'Olonne!” His endeavours are appreciated by the English skipper Miranda Merron who congratulated him: “He worked like crazy. I say hats off to him, it is always desperate to someone close to you with damage so close to he end so I am so pleased he is going again.”