Charlie Dalin and Louis Burton continued to duel at long distance in the Vendee Globe on Tuesday after choosing different routes home.
Burton in Bureau Vallee 2 was moving faster and was further north than any of his rivals but because he had gambled on swinging west in search of favourable weather, he had dropped two places to fourth and was further from home than fellow Frenchmen Dalin in Apivia, Thomas Ruyant in LinkedOut and Damien Seguin in Apicil.
At 1700 GMT Dalin led Ruyant by 116 nautical miles (215.4 kilometres), with Seguin less than 3nm further back and Burton another 12nm from the finish as they drew level with the Cape Verde Islands.
Less than 180nm separated Dalin from Italian Giancarlo Pedote in seventh in Prysmian Group.
Four years ago to the day, on January 19, 2017, Armel Le Cleac'h crossed the finish line of the last Vendee Globe off Les Sables-d'Olonne after 74 days of racing.
On Tuesday evening, on the 73rd day of the 2020 edition, Dalin still had 2,594nm to go and the winner is expected in eight or nine days' time in the Vendee.
But "the current rankings don't really show the reality," said Le Cleac'h, a guest on Tuesday on the organisation's daily programme.
While Dalin and almost all his pursuers have chosen the shortest route home, Burton was some 200nm to the west. He was moving at almost 20 knots, while Dalin was going at just over 16 knots. In the previous 24 hours, Burton had travelled more than 50nm further than any of his rivals and yet had lost two places in the standings and more than 55nm to Dalin in that time.
"I am trying to build on the fact that I got quickly out of the Doldrums, so am sticking with this strategy," said Burton. "We're going to play this to the max. I'm still on the attack to try to get into the curve of the high pressure with as much speed as possible, as soon as possible, that's the strength of this option."
Burton is sailing the monohull which Cleac'h skippered to victory four years ago.
"When you see the scenario of these last days of the race, it promises incredible suspense," said Le Cleac'h. "It is difficult to give a potential winner. In terms of the weather, Louis has the advantage for the moment, but over the last final five or six days, Charlie should have a little bit more speed. It promises to be a duel with very little gap to the finish."
While the leaders have crossed the equator, the last two boats are still in the chilly south Pacific heading for Cape Horn. On Tuesday, Finn Ari Huusela, who is in last place, posted a photo showing a small snowman he had built on his boat.
Leading race standings as of 1700 GMT, January 19
1. Charlie Dalin (FRA/Apivia) 2596.4 nautical miles from finish, 2. Thomas Ruyant (FRA/LinkedOut) at 116.3, 3. Damien Seguin (FRA/Groupe Apicil) 119, 4. Louis Burton (FRA/Bureau Vallee 2) 131.3, 5. Boris Herrmann (GER/Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) 152.9, 6. Yannick Bestaven (FRA/Maitre Coq IV) 155.2, 7. Giancarlo Pedote (ITA/Prysmian Group) 178.7, 8. Benjamin Dutreux (FRA/OMIA-Water Family) 240.6, 9. Jean Le Cam (FRA/Yes we Cam!) 288.8, 10. Maxime Sorel (FRA/V And B Mayenne) 496.6.