Vendee Globe set for Hollywood style finish between Le Cléac'h and Thomson
The final few days of the Vendee Globe have the potential to play out like the closing minutes of an Oscar-winning Hollywood blockbuster.
Picture the scene: After 71 days of Armel Le Cléac'h and Alex Thomson battling each other around the world, the two salt-stained and weary adversaries find themselves around 100 miles apart with under 2,000 miles left to race.
They have spent months on end at record breaking pace this evening the duo had slowed dramatically, gliding silently across the North Atlantic at under five knots a few hundred miles off the coast of Western Sahara.
In the Hollywood version, this is when we would see the two skippers come on deck and gaze meaningfully towards each other over the distant horizon; their lined and weather-beaten faces silently communicating mutual respect for a battle well-fought so far.
How the rest of the movie goes depends on whether you are watching the French or English director’s cut.
In the French version, the brave Le Cléac'h cleverly fends off a series of sneaky attacks from Thomson’s and his piratical black boat, before finally securing a Vendee Globe victory after 12 years of trying.
In the English edit, Thomson – sailing of course for queen and country - cunningly outwits the Frenchman and snatches the lead in the final few miles into the finish line. On arrival in Les Sables D’Olonne Thomson leaps ashore in a sharp-looking Hugo Boss suit and is immediately knighted there and then on the pontoon by Her Majesty the Queen.
Hollywood ending or not, we could well be in for a captivating finale to this Vendee Globe.
The pressure on both skippers is enormous. The Frenchman has been second twice before and the thought of ending up the bridesmaid for a third time must be haunting his waking dreams. Thomson meanwhile has always maintained that this race with this boat gave him the best chance he would ever have to become the first non-Frenchman to win the Vendee Globe.
It has to be said that a British win is somewhat against the odds, but with weather models suggesting a few days of light wind sailing lie ahead, a comeback move from Thomson is far from impossible.
If this was any other sort of racing – horse, car, running, or cycling, for instance - the race would be Le Cléac'h’s to lose. Just keep the boat in one piece, stay between your rival and the finish line, keep going as fast as he can, and victory would be his.
But this is ocean racing where there is often an un-level playing field and where things regularly don’t go according to plan. As much as they are racing each against other, the French and British skippers are also competing with the vagaries of the weather.
Whoever does the best job of interpreting what happens next weather-wise this weekend has a chance of getting a major jump on his rival.
For Armel that would mean a swift escape from the light wind zone leaving Alex languishing windless in his wake.
The alternative script calls for Thomson to sail around the outside of a helplessly becalmed Le Cléac'h into an unassailable lead and an irrevocable place in the Vendee Globe record books.
Either way, it’s unmissable action and it’s playing on a computer screen near you now. Make sure you catch it, it’s unlikely they will make a sequel.