Three days ahead of the expected arrival home from the solo round-the-world Vendee Globe yacht race, Louis Burton took the lead on Bureau Vallee 2 in another twist to a nail-biting three-way war of attrition.
In normal times up to 500,000 yacht-racing fans could have been expected to show up for the arrival of the race winners at Les Sables-d’Olonne in the Atlantic Vendee region of France where the race also started.
But coronavirus protocol has led to a police order for spectators to stay away as the tension mounts out at sea as an unusually rare three-way struggle reaches its climax.
Burton overtook previous leader Charlie Dalin on Apivia around midday on Sunday and led him by five nautical miles after a 20nm turnaround in just seven hours.
But both men will be scanning the horizon for the man now being tipped for ultimate victory, Boris Herrmann, the German skipper of the Sea explorer Yacht Club de Monaco.
Herrmann was one of the skippers who rushed to the aid of Kevin Escoffier when he hit what is thought to be a whale and his craft snapped in two in high seas seven weeks ago.
Escoffier was found by maverick Frenchman Jean Le Cam, but Herrmann has been awarded six hours for his sacrifice in the search that will only be tallied in when he crosses the finish line off the French coast on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The race left vast beaches of Les Sables-d’Olonne on November 8 with some 33 competitors, 25 of whom are still at sea, two of them a full 6,000nm adrift of the leaders who are racing on state-of-the-art foil craft which lift out of the water to reach speeds not possible on traditional craft.
Lead standings at 11h00 GMT, Januar 24
1. Louis Burton (FRA/Bureau Vallee 2) 1.073.9 nautical miles from the finish line
2. Charlie Dalin (FRA/Apivia) at 5.4 miles
3. Boris Herrmann (GER/Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) 44.7
4. Thomas Ruyant (FRA/LinkedOut) 103.7
5. Yannick Bestaven (FRA/Maître Coq IV) 237.1
6. Giancarlo Pedote (ITA/Prysmian Group) 282.0
7. Damien Seguin (FRA/Groupe Apicil) 295.0
8. Jean Le Cam (FRA/Yes we Cam !) 598.2
9. Benjamin Dutreux (FRA/OMIA-Water Family) 679.3
10. Maxime Sorel (FRA/V And B Mayenne) 863.5