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3 Months And 24,000 Miles Later, Vendée Globe Competitors Complete Race

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

An exciting end tonight to the world's toughest sailing race as the leading boats cross the line in an unusually close finish. The solo nonstop race around the world is ending where it began, on the western coast of France, 80 days and more than 24,000 miles ago. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: French sailor Charlie Dalin was the first to arrive in the port of Les Sables-d'Olonne on France's Atlantic coast.

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UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Charlie. Charlie.

BEARDSLEY: As he took his first steps on land in 2 1/2 months, fans screamed out his name, and cameras snapped away. His arrival into the Bay of Biscay in the dark was broadcast on the French nightly news and streamed online. Dalin crossed the finish line in 80 days, six hours, 15 minutes and 47 seconds. Andi Robertson, a spokesman for the race, said the 36-year-old Vendee Globe rookie clearly has what it takes.

ANDI ROBERTSON: I think self-reliance is the primary requirement and obviously substantial ocean racing experience. And it tends to be the absolute pinnacle of a solo ocean racer's career.

BEARDSLEY: The grueling conditions of the race took their toll. Eight skippers were forced to drop out after their yachts were damaged. One sailor's boat was split in half during a storm off the Cape of Good Hope. Andi Robertson.

ROBERTSON: It's about avoiding the worst of the big winds with - in this race, we've seen 50 to 60 knots at times and use the best of the systems to go fast.

BEARDSLEY: This is the most competitive race since the Vendee Globe began in 1989. Nine of the top boats are racing to the finish within 600 miles of each other.

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UNIDENTIFIED COMMENTATOR: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: French commentators said the sailors were arriving in a pack as if they'd been out on a little excursion, not 80 days around the planet. Just because Dalin crossed the line first doesn't mean he'll win. Three other skippers close behind him have time bonuses after rescuing that sailor whose boat split in two. So the winner won't be known until their final times are in.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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