HAMPSHIRE solo sailor Sam Davies has split from her nearest rival in an attempt to protect her podium position in the Vendée Globe race.

Third-placed Davies and her closest rival Marc Guillemot have opted to take opposite routes through the North Atlantic as they battle it out in the final stages of the 28,000-mile race.

Davies, from Hamble, moved into third on Monday after keel problems forced Frenchman Rolain Jourdain to call an end to his campaign.

The 33-year-old now has just 2,000 miles left in the epic round-the-world race, which finishes in the French port of Les Sables d’Olonne.

But even after covering 26,000 miles in the toughest conditions known to man, Davies has a fight on her hands to secure her position – and her place in the history books.

Dame Ellen MacArthur shot to fame after coming second in the race in 2001, a destiny that could await Davies if she can hold off Guillemot, just 100 miles behind.

Onboard her yacht Roxy, Davies said she was looking forward to strengthening winds for the final leg.

She said: “I can see a squall cloud ahead that marks the return of the wind, probably with the strengthening that is forecast.

“The peaceful days of trade wind sailing are soon behind me as I start to have to manoeuvre around and across the Azores high pressure.

“I am going to need some big energy reserves to do the manoeuvres and stacking required in the next few days.

“Now the finish is getting nearer, I am starting to look forward to things that I haven’t thought about much before, like fresh fruit and vegetables and a long hot shower.”

Fifth-placed Brian Thompson has been bashing his way upwind towards the Canary Islands.

He said: “It’s a long slog up the tropical North Atlantic against the NE Trades.

“I am well heeled over with wave after wave hitting the boat.

“Down below it’s a matter of holding on, not to get thrown against the unforgiving carbon hull.

“The spray is flying across the deck every five seconds as the boat pitches into the next wave.”

Meanwhile, Dee Caffari has caught up 40 miles on Thompson, her nearest rival.

Caffari said: “I have been spending time looking at the weather and at the moment I hope things change as it looks like the group ahead will get through and then the Azores high elongates east to west to shut me out from reaching the favourable winds beyond.

“Another two days of doldrums will be a cruel blow so close yet so far from the finish.”

French sailor Michel Desjoyeaux, pictured, crossed the finish line on Sunday to win an historic second Vendée Glove title.

Second placed Armel Le Cléac’h is expected to finish tomorrow, while Davies and Guillemot are likely to reach the finish between 6pm on Monday and 6pm on Wednesday.

Thompson’s ETA is between midday Tuesday and midday on Thursday while Caffari is expect back between midnight on Thursday and midday next Saturday.