The final two Vendee Globe skippers should cross the Sables d'Olonne finish line this weekend

Vendee Globe skipper Karen Leibovici (Benefic) is now only 400 miles from the finish line at Les Sables d’Olonne.

Since the start of the week she has managed to maintain a good speed of about 9 knots on a single tack and on a direct course towards the finish line. Her efforts have paid off and she has come back to within 250 miles of Raphaël Dinelli (Akena Verandas). He is continuing along off the Vendée coastline on a long, slow slog, tacking the wrong side of the ridge of high pressure which is barring his passage towards the finish. Raphaël is trying to pick his away across it whilst avoiding falling into the calm zones. His ETA is now forecast for Saturday morning.

What an ordeal! So near and yet so far from the goal. Less than 240 miles from his home port of Les Sables d’Olonne, Raphaël Dinelli is making good headway, without sailing to close on the wind so as to spare his boat and his rig from oncoming seas. The only ‘glip’ is that he is not going in the right direction. On starboard tack he climbs up towards England, and on the other he points his bow towards Spain. As a result his VMG is just 3 or 4 knots and he is being forced to cross this famous ridge of high pressure with its shifty, light winds to hunt down a small north-westerly air flow synonymous with the oh so elusive downwind sailing.

In his rear view mirror, Raphaël can almost make out the long ‘red cigar’ of Benefic, Karen Leibovici back to within 240 miles of him. Deprived of power, Benefic is on a direct course towards the finish. The depression which has propelled her along since the Azores will speed up the disintegration of the ridge of high pressure and ease her progress to the finish. Karen is still in a strong 25-30 knot wind making towards the centre of the Bay of Biscay. There she may well perform her last tack before the finish and a fine Sunday looks to be on the cards for the local ‘Sablais’ with the arrival of the second female racer and the conclusion to what has been an intense 5th version of the Vendée Globe.