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The Vendée Globe began last Sunday and will probably last for about 75 days. A leaderboard is regularly updated, which can be accessed here.

Thomson is currently in the lead, followed closely by Le Cléa'ch and JP Dick. However, they are not following one another but rather appear to be on the same line, descending SSW. This is because Thomson chose to jibe to take advantage on the stronger winds near the Portugal coast, Dick did the same but to a lesser extent, and Le Cléa'ch stayed the course. Their trajectories can be seen below on the screenshot.

Now my question is: what are the criteria used to put Thomson before Dick and Le Cléa'ch in the leaderboard?

Vendée Globe 08 November 2016

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Distance to Finish (DTF) is the simplest and most common way to measure distance in sailing. If you take a Great Circle line (the shortest distance on the surface of the Earth) between the boat and the next mark, buoy or finish, that is the DTF. Once round the next mark, the measurement starts again to the following one.

It isn't an accurate indicator of who will actually be in the lead, as it doesn't take into account course made good over tides, winds, upwind sailing capability etc., until the boats are close to the mark/buoy/finish line.

Because of this, commentators typically provide analysis based on expectations of positions, and this is especially valuable for long distance races such as the Vendée Globe. They take into account known weather patterns, sea conditions etc.

From the Volvo Ocean Race site (emphasis mine):

DTF or DISTANCE TO FINISH

The distance (in nautical miles) from the boat to the finish line (passing any gates or land that might be in the way) at the time of the position report, measured along the great circle route.

  • Thanks for your answer. In the case of the Vendée Globe, do you know exactly how the distance is measured? It cannot be directly the distance to the finish line (since the quickest way there would be to just turn around); maybe they add the distance to some sort of checkpoint and then the distance between each of the checkpoints? But there are no checkpoints that I know of (there used to be portes des glaces, ice doors, but those have been removed for the 2016/17 race). – Alexandre d'Entraigues Nov 12 '16 at 0:42
  • Alexandre - each of the legs has marks, and the distance is to them is very well known. Think about the route, and what landmasses you need to go round :-) – Rory Alsop Nov 13 '16 at 14:51
  • updated with specific wording – Rory Alsop Nov 15 '16 at 23:18
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The yacht with least distance along the minimal path to the end line will be considered "winning".

This is apparent in the leaderboard with Thomson's distance au but ("distance to the goal") being listed, and the other yachts listed as distance au 1er ("distance to first-placer").

In the case of second and third only a tenth of a nautical mile separates the required distance for the yachts. They will appear very close because relatively speaking, they are very close together.

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