Well earned victory
Looking rested, clean shaven and without the wild red eyes typical of Vendee Globe finishers, Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron aboard their faithful steed Virbac Paprec 3 crossed the Barcelona World Race finish line this morning at 10:20:36 GMT to claim line honours. Their time for the 25,200 mile round the world course via Cook Straight was 93 days 22 hours 20 minutes and 36 seconds at an average speed of 11.18 knots.
This was a slower elapsed time than the 92 days 9 hours 49 minutes and 49 seconds, Virbac Paprec 2 managed when Dick and his then co-skipper Damian Foxall took her to victory in the 2007-8 race. Generally in this second Barcelona World Race, Virbac Paprec 3's boat speed was faster - to highlight this on 22 January they set a new 24 hour speed record for IMOCA 60s of 506.33 miles (average speed 21.1 knots) and a day before they prised the lead off Foncia and three days before Michel Desjoyeaux and Francois Gabart's new 60 broke the top of its mast.
Virbac Paprec's elapsed time was slower this time because of her two day stop in Wellington (to fix batten cars and other miscellaneous items) and the 15 hours plus a diversion to Recife (to refix the 2.5m of mainsheet track that was coming adrift) combined with days on the wind en route back Gibraltar that continued into the Mediterranean and then almost no wind for the final two days. In the first Barcelona World Race Virbac Paprec 2 suffered problems with one of her rudders and a damaged Solent stay but the crew had managed to effect running repairs.
After ghosting across the line in 3-4 knots of breeze, Dick (45) and Peyron (51), drove their blue hulled VPLP-Verdier designed IMOCA 60 into Barcelona harbour docking close the Placa de la Carbonara by the Port Authority building, where, despite it being Monday morning, they were met by a huge crowd of friends, relatives, sponsors, media and general spectators.
On berthing, Jean-Pierre Dick described his feelings on winning a second consecutive Barcelona World Race: “A lot of emotions, quite indescribable - I am so happy to be here. I had my objective and today it has been satisfied. It is magical the way we won it together. Thanks Loïck for doing this race with me and putting up with me, magical to live three months among nature around the world, living our passion, and technologically it’s quite special. Thank you and thank you Barcelona for this race, it is ideal. Doublehanded around the world is fantastic. Thank you also to my sponsors, I am very proud to have these people with me.”
Dick is well on the way to becoming the most successful doublehanded ocean racer of all time following his latest victory, his win in the first Barcelona World Race and two IMOCA 60 class wins in the Transat Jacques Vabre, sailing respectively with Nicolas Abiven and Loick Peyron. Dick has yet to make his mark fully singlehanded aboard IMOCA 60s, but will certainly be one of the favourites for the next Vendee Globe, his third having been forced to pull out of the last race to the south of Australia with rudder damage, while he was leading.
Despite now being one of the most experienced IMOCA 60s skippers, Dick is of course a new boy compared to his co-skipper. While Dick sailed his first Vendee Globe only in 2002, Peyron came home second in the first Vendee back in 1989, his solo sailing career dating back to a Mini Transat participation in 1979, the Figaro in 1980, his first Route du Rhum in 1982 and subsequently, the highlight of his career - back to back wins aboard his ORMA 60 trimaran Fujicolor in the OSTAR (1992 and 1996). While he finished second in the Vendee Globe and second again in The Race when he skippered the maxi-catamaran Innovation Explorer, this is the first time Peyron had won a round the world race.
Of the 14 IMOCA Open 60s which set off from Barcelona on 31 December, Virbac Paprec 3 was one the four boats considered favourite. And to some extent her victory was one of attrition as her main rivals - Président, Foncia and Groupe Bel all retired with mast or keel failures.
Dick and Peyron led the race out through the Straits of Gibraltar on 3 January and after re-taking the lead on 23 January were never passed. The duel with Michel Desjoyeaux and Francois Gabart and Foncia, which had all the potential for a round the world match race, forced the red line higher and higher, but alas came to an end when Foncia broke their topmast early on the morning of 25 January.
Spain’s double Olympic 49er gold medallists, Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez, in their first ever IMOCA Open 60 doublehanded race held second since Foncia withdrew. While Virbac-Paprec 3’s pulled out a lead of 781 miles over Martinez and Fernandez' Mapfre on 7 February, the Spanish pair pressed the leaders relentlessly, getting to within 8.3 miles of Dick and Peyron in the Pacific on 25 February. But, with a beautifully precise 30-mile hitch to the east to set up early in the South Atlantic high pressure system, the winners avoided the very worst of the light winds and made the better passage of the dominant anticyclone.
Though their difficult return through the Doldrums was as long, slow and challenging as either Dick or Peyron could recall over their careers, Virbac-Paprec 3 emerged with an advantage to build on over a final 16-day marathon upwind slog to lead back into Gibraltar.
Jean-Pierre Dick commented: “This round the world race has been a mixture of lots of little things. We already knew each other and it was the joint experience of both of us skippers as individuals which was key to winning. We have a really good team, mutual understanding and great respect. We have known each other for a long time and it is for me a huge privilege to have been able to sail around the world with Loïck. A wonderful experience. We both wanted to win of course and our cohesion was focused on this victory.”
Asked if he would consider a third race Dick said: “I love Barcelona but I want to celebrate this first and then we will see. The Barcelona World Race is a magical race, it is a wonderful concept: double handed, with sunsets, whales, albatross – to be able to share this natural experience when you are passionate about the sea and can live this passion it is amazing."
Asked what made the difference for them: "The (winning) difference: a new boat, the return delivery trip from New Zealand. The boat is very new but it is very powerful and reliable. The timings, the schedule was good, and that is the key. We also had a bit of luck it should be said.
“It is a great moment for me after three years of not winning; it was quite frustrating having to abandon the Vendée Globe when ahead, and then there was a year and a half wait whilst the boat was being built. To be successful and have fulfilled my objective iswonderful.
Loïck Peyron was similarly over the moon. “It has been exceptional. My third round the world race. The first time was solo, the second with a team and this third time double-handed. And we have won – we led the race in spite of some tough competition. It was a fantastic experience and it is a fabulous feeling to finish and finish so well.
“Success comes from true cohesion – and we are both complementary. The savoir-faire of the solo sailing world means you really trust the other person. Success is also about having a good machine at your feet. We made a mistake last night – it was probably us relaxing a little before the arrival, but we did a good job.
“My most important memories are of the albatross – they are quite unique in the world and that part of the planet and we were lucky enough to see them.
“It has been a real example of teamwork by the ‘family’. It is a beautiful example of unity and I am delighted to have had the chance to experience it.
“It is magical to be in Barcelona again. The last time was with The Race and it is wonderful to be back again and this time with another beautiful story.”
Blow by blow:
4 January - after taking the southerly option and finding more wind pressure on the Moroccan coast Virbac-Paprec 3 leads out of Gibraltar Straits, 3 days, 7 hours and 55 minutes after the start on 31 December (6 hours faster than 2007-8 edition when Dick and Foxall also led)
8 January - Foncia lead passing Madeira, Virbac-Paprec 3 after five days in front drop to second after a small tactical error, with a compact top group including Président, Groupe Bel and Neutrogena.
10 January - strong downwind trade conditions speeds peak at 25 knots, making for a relentless driving pace and on January 11th Jean Le Cam and Bruno Garcia retire after breaking their mast on Président, north of the Cape Verdes.
13 January -2.5 m of traveller track rips away requiring Virbac Paprec 3 to make a technical stop in Recife, Brazil. Foncia also stop after damage to their crash box and an almost surreal F1 style pit-stop ensues. The two IMOCA Open 60s, which have been locked together since they were shipped back from Martinique on the same ship after the Route du Rhum, and refitted in the same shed in Barcelona, now pit-stop in the same Brazilian dock. The rival crews even briefly end up sharing the same apartment! Virbac-Paprec 3’s total time stopped is 15 hours and they return to the race course with a deficit of 277 miles on the leaders, Estrella Damm.
18 January - they are first to go into ghost mode as both the Recife boats find being to the west of the main pack to a long-term advantage as they sail down the Brazilian coast - a course representing more miles than those on the more direct route to the east, but further away from the St Helena allows them to make gains sailing a higher speeds in the strong winds.
In the Southern Ocean Virbac-Paprec 3 sets a new 24-hour world speed record for 60-footers at 506.33 miles, bettering the 2007-8 record set during the Barcelona World Race by Alex Thomson and Andrew Cape at 501.9 miles on Hugo Boss.
23 January - Dick and Peyron retake the lead and are first to round the Cape of Good Hope.
26 January - Early in the morning the near-twins are finally parted when Foncia breaks her mast. Virbac-Paprec 3 lead Mapfre by nearly 580 miles at this stage.
16 February - Virbac-Paprec 3 makes the minimum 48-hour stop in Wellington to repair batten cars, returning with their lead shrunk to 128 miles ahead of Mapfre.
25 February - Virbac-Paprec 3s lead has been reduced to just 8.3 miles over Mapfre
3 March - Virbac-Paprec 3’s passed Cape Horn, 140 miles ahead of Mapfre
4 March - Mapfre stops briefly to sort out twisted halyards at the entrance to Beagle Channel. Martinez and Fernandez lose about 80 miles.
5-11 - Saint Helena High strategy sees a huge accordion effect, but while Mapfre closes in Virbac-Paprec 3 is able to accelerate away from the high pulling out a lead of 545 miles over Mapfre.
19 March: Doldrums: compression to 111 miles as the Doldrums move north
4 April Virbac-Paprec 3 crosses the finish line at 10:20 GMT winning the second Barcelona World Race after 93 days, 22 hours, 20 minutes and 36 seconds of racing.
Photos by James Boyd: