François Gabart maintains lead in final miles of Vendée Globe race


François Gabart is maintaining a 200-plus lead ahead of Armel le Cléac’h as the pair approach what looks likely to be a relatively easy northward passage through the Doldrums into the final miles of the Vendée Globe singlehanded round the world race to the finish in Les Sables d’Olonne.

And, having briefly conceded third place to Alex Thomson, now managing fully to charge his batteries, Jean-Pierre Dick has managed to re-establish a 230-mile cushion over his British rival.

Which leaves the battle for fifth and sixth and a see-saw battle between a fourth Frenchman, Jean le Cam, and the second British soloist, Mike Golding. Golding moved ahead overnight only to see le Cam pick up speed and the restoration of his 200-mile advantage.

Whirring computers at race control in Paris are predicting, at best, Gabart beating by up to a week the record of 84 days set by his mentor Michel Desjoyeaux and the possibility of all the top four being inside the current record time.

Britain’s Yachtsman of the Year is the latest in a cascade of awards and plaudits showered on Ben Ainslie, knighted in the New Year’s honours list, but this time he has been joined with a special award from the Yachting Journalists Association for his coach of many years, David Howlett.

Young yachtsman of the year is the windsurfer Saskia Sills and among other special awards being presented by Lady Pippa Blake in London was an achievement award for Henri Lloyd founder Henry Strzelecki, who died on Boxing Day.