French skipper Charles Dalin was clinging to the lead of the solo round-the-world Vendee Globe on Monday but with just a predicted 48 hours to go, the race looks destined to go to the wire.
Dalin, in Apivia, had just 637 nautical miles to go at 1700 GMT Monday to the line but was only a slender 48 nautical miles ahead of Louis Burton in Bureau Vallee 2.
Just 39nm further back lay the German skipper Boris Herrmann, vying to become the first non-Frenchman to win the race which is in its ninth edition.
These three are approaching Les Sables d'Olonne in Brittany, northern France, where the race began 78 days ago on November 8, from the south-east. Burton had been sailing further west but swung east on Monday.
Another group, consisting of Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut), Yannick Bestaven (Maitre Coq IV) and Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) has taken a longer to the north-west and has been moving faster.
The first three home are expected to cross the finish line within the space of a few hours on Wednesday.
The winner, however, will not necessarily be the first boat to cross the line as Herrmann in Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco has a six-hour bonus and Bestaven a 10hr 15min bonus for their parts in the rescue of Kevin Escoffier off the Cape of Good Hope in December. The bonuses will be attributed at the end of the race.
"It will be such an amazing finish," said Herrmann, taking part in his first Vendee Globe.
"I expect it will be down to the last degree of wind angle on Wednesday afternoon and it is so hard to predict. I will play it a bit by ear.
"I am in a really black and white scheme, between stressing myself and just enjoying it.
"All my friends and my wife are telling me 'come on don't let the pressure get to you, this is all good'. It has been an incredible race."
Bestaven's bonus for time lost in the search for Escoffier, who was picked up by Jean Le Cam, means that, even though he was fifth on Monday almost 300nm adrift of Dalin, means he might also be able to force his way on to the podium.
"On my calculations today I have Yannick Bestaven winning on my routing scheme here," said Herrmann.
"He is way too far north now to cover him. If I cover him he has four hours more than me.
"I don't think there is an option for match racing here. As much fun as it would be, it is really like now finding your own lane, using the shifts when they come and stuff like that."
The Dalin-Burton-Herrmann trio, running off the coast of Portugal, are likely to face a speed bump on Thursday when they run into a small area of light wind in the Bay of Biscay, which could open the door for the trio to the north.
Lead standings at 17h00 GMT, January 25
1. Charlie Dalin (FRA/Apivia) 637.3 nautical miles from finish, 2. Louis Burton (FRA/Bureau Vallee 2) at 48.1nm, 3. Boris Herrmann (GER/Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) 87.7, 4. Thomas Ruyant (FRA/LinkedOut) 221.6, 5. Yannick Bestaven (FRA/Maitre Coq IV) 284.1, 6. Damien Seguin (FRA/Groupe Apicil) 354.6, 7. Giancarlo Pedote (ITA/Prysmian Group) 391.6, 8. Jean Le Cam (FRA/Yes we Cam!) 552.7, 9. Benjamin Dutreux (FRA/OMIA-Water Family) 755.3, 10. Maxime Sorel (FRA/V And B Mayenne) 975.2