Charlie Dalin's Apivia (seen here at the start of the race) holds a slender lead in the Vendee Globe

Paris (AFP) - French skippers Yannick Bestaven and Charlie Dalin played cat and mouse on Wednesday at the head of a tightly-knit leading group in an absorbing solo round-the-world Vendee Globe.

After more than two months at sea and the finish in France a mere 4,388 nautical miles away (8,146 kilometres), the leaders are heading north in the Atlantic towards the Equator with the top six separated by fewer than 100nm.

Since Dalin in Apivia overhauled Bestaven’s Maitre Coq IV on Tuesday, for the first time since Christmas Day, the two have traded top spot. At 1400 GMT Wednesday, Dalin held a 10nm advantage but, travelling to the east of his rival, had the better wind.

Just 13nm behind Bestaven lay Louis Burton, who finished seventh in the last edition, in his yacht Bureau Vallee while Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut, which is operating without its port foil, was only another 11nm further back.

Damien Seguin in Groupe Apicil is within 50nm of the lead with the German Boris Herrmann in Sea Explorer-Yacht Club de Monaco, still harbouring realistic ambitions of becoming the first non-French winner of the race at his first attempt, another 35nm to the rear.

“It’s funny when you look at the map and see all these boats so close together after two months of racing,” said Ruyant on Wednesday.

“It’s quite incredible, it’s crazy. It seems no one can really get away in this Vendee Globe.”

Benjamin Dutreux, Jean Le Cam and Giancarlo Pedote also remain in the mix, sailing within 150nm of Dalin.

“The weather situation means that we always get back together like this,” said Ruyant.

“It’s going to be a breathless finish all the way to the end. A lot of things are going to happen.

Route of the Vendee Globe 2020/2021

“We’re all going to arrive on the same day, or even within 48 hours.”

Of the 33 boats that set off from Brittany on November 8, seven have retired. The winner is expected to cross the finish line at Les Sables d’Olonne in the next two weeks.

Leading race standings as of 1400 GMT, January 13

1. Charlie Dalin (FRA/Apivia) 4,388.0 nautical miles from finish, 2. Yannick Bestaven (FRA/Maitre Coq IV) at 10.8nm, 3. Louis Burton (FRA/Bureau Vallee 2) 23.6, 4.Thomas Ruyant (FRA/LinkedOut) 34.5, 5. Damien Seguin (FRA/Groupe Apicil) 49.3, 6. Boris Herrmann (GER/Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) 84.7, 7. Benjamin Dutreux (FRA/OMIA-Water Family) 110.5, 8. Jean Le Cam (FRA/Yes we Cam!) 135.6, 9. Giancarlo Pedote (ITA/Prysmian Group) 143.4, 10. Maxime Sorel (FRA/V And B Mayenne) 331.7