- Title: Vendee Globe fans gather with Le Cleac'h set to clinch win
- Date: 19th January 2017
- Summary: PHOTO OF LE CLEAC'H
- Embargoed: 2nd February 2017 13:15
- Keywords: sailing Vendee Globe fans supporters Le Cleac'h Thomson
- Location: LES SABLES D'OLONNE, FRANCE
- City: LES SABLES D'OLONNE, FRANCE
- Country: France
- Topics: Sport,Yachting / Sailing
- Reuters ID: LVA0025ZQZEWV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Crowds of sailing fans gathered in Les Sables d'Olonne, France on Thursday (January 19), preparing to welcome Frenchman Armel Le Cleac'h who is set to win the Vendee Globe single-handed, non-stop round-the-world challenge.
The 39-year-old sailor from Brittany, aboard 'Banque Populaire', is on course to cross the finish line around 1530GMT on Thursday.
It would be Le Cleac'h's first win in the Vendee Globe after two second-place finishes in the last two races in 2009 and 2013.
"We are really delighted, delighted for him. We are really very happy because he's come second two times and we only wish him the best for this evening. He deserved it," French supporter of Le Cleac'h, Sophie Saupin, who comes from Saint-Nazaire said.
Le Cleac'h's former sports teacher Gerard Vaillant was among those who had come to the port to cheer him on.
"We're at each departure, each arrival with a little heart to let him know how much we love him. With such persistence he's achieved his dream, which was to take part in the Vendee Globe. Already, he's done it twice, and then the next step is to do everything to win it which is the case today. We're still waiting for five pm, and for him to cross the line. We wish him the best," Vaillant, who said he taught Le Cleac'h in Rennes before he became a professional skipper, told Reuters.
With just a few nautical miles left to cover, Le Cleac'h 146 had extended his lead to 87 nautical miles over Briton Alex Thomson.
Sailing 'Hugo Boss', Thomson has chased Le Cleac'h in a tight race, but barring any major technical difficulties aboard 'Banque Populaire', he is unlikely to catch up with Le Cleac'h at this stage.
"We saw him go out on November 6 and cheered him all the way out so we thought it was only fair we cheered him back in. Delighted that he's second, a little bit disappointed because we thought he might even win but happy he's going to be second so we'll stay here until he arrives," Briton Sandy Wales, who lives in France, said.
Le Cleac'h and Thomson will both beat the previous record set by Francois Gabart of 78 days, two hours, 16 minutes and 40 seconds four years ago.
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