Keel-less Virbac Paprec 3 home in fourth
His third participation in the singlehanded non-stop round the world race has yielded his best ever result, despite having to race the final 2,650 miles sans-keel. Dick’s elapsed time for course is 86 days 3 hours 3 minutes and 40 seconds, 8 days and 47 minutes behind race winner François Gabart's MACIF.
His average speed for the theoretical course of 24,393 miles is calculated to be 1.,8 knots. In reality he sailed 27 734 miles on the water at an actual average speed of 13.4 knots.
Double winner of the two handed Barcelona World Race and a three tims winner of the two handed Transat Jacques Vabre, Dick was one of the favourites to win this Vendée Globe, but in the end had to give up his third place position he was holding when his keel snapped off on 21 January. He fought on to the finish after making a 48 hours stop in the north of Spain to let a strong low pressure system pass.
Dick's finish in Les Sables d’Olonne put a full stop to one of the most engaging stories of this Vendée Globe. As he sailed to fourth place Jean-Pierre Dick’s race revealed an inspiring mix of human fortitude and endeavour, sporting excellence and technical achievement.
JP Dick was on the hunt, lying in third place and still doggedly chasing the two leaders, François Gabart on MACIF and Armel Le Cléac’h on Banque Populaire who were nearly 400 miles ahead when his Virbac-Paprec 3 lost her keel at 2245 UTC on 21 January, some 500 miles northwest of the Cape Verde Islands.
To make the finish Jean-Pierre Dick has sailed some 2,650 miles – a record - without a keel. It was a passage during which he lived life on a knife edge, constantly vigilant to ensure his IMOCA 60 sailed as flat as possible or risk capsize. To sit out the worst of a depression Dick made a short 48 hours stop in Saint Cyprian on the north coast of Galicia between 0430 UTC 31 January, restarting in light winds on the morning of 3 February at 0720 UTC.
Until the accident effectively robbed him of third place on the podium, the French skipper was one of the key players in the race. On the descent of the Atlantic he was in the top five at the Canary Islands. Then, just as he also led during the 2008-9 Vendée Globe, Dick took the lead and between the Agulhas gate and the Cape of Good Hope he was at the top of the rankings six times, leading the Vendée Globe fleet past the Cape of Good Hope.
From there a pattern was set to Cape Leeuwin and beyond with the leading trio becoming well established, François Gabart, Armel Le Cléac'h and the skipper of Virbac-Paprec 3, until the lead duo escaped away from him as he was caught in a ridge to the southwest of Australia.
In the Pacific Dick lacked the power of key headsails because of damage to one of his headsail hooks at the top of the mast, and lost ground progressively to Gabart and Le Cleac'h. At one point he was 687 miles behind. But after several mast climbs to fix the hook issue, he came back strongly on the approach to Cape Horn, more than halving his deficit.
On the ascent of the South Atlantic he got to within 100 miles of the leading duo just as the race defining split between MACIF and Banque Populaire took place.
For Dick this fourth place is his best Vendée Globe finish yet. He finished sixth in 2004-5, arriving with no power, and in 2008-9 he had to retire into New Zealand after suffering rudder damage after a collision with an unidentified floating object.
By comparison with the Breton ‘inner circle’, Dick, originally from Nice, was a late starter in the IMOCA class, and is not really a graduate of their traditional passage through the Figaro circuit. Instead he arrived through a win in the crewed Tour de France a Voile. A qualified vet with a masters business degree and years of a professional executive career under his belt before he turned to ocean racing, Dick is a rigorous, thorough sailor who trains long and hard and embraces science and technology in every aspect, human and technical.
He has become renowned as something of a specialist in doublehanded races winning the Transat Jacques Vabre three times now and twice winning the Barcelona World Race around the world. His best solo result remains his third in the 2006 Route du Rhum. Dick has a reputation in the sport for being a tough, hard working gentleman who is supported by highly competent team. He has always made strong technical choices, not least in his choice of yacht designers and building his recent boats in New Zealand which allows him to build miles by delivering them back to France.
“I feel proud to have brought my boat home safe and sound," Dick commented on his arrival. "The race took a different turn for me when my stay broke and then I lost my keel. It was not easy to stay close to the lead of the race. They were sailing fast. I resigned myself to a third place, and then there was this stroke of fate. Afterwards, I focussed again on finishing. It was hard work mentally. I had to make a tough choice, but today we can say that I made the right decision.
“The moment that frightened me most was when I lost my keel, because the boat really heeled over. I was lucky to be beside the mainsail sheet and I was able to react quickly. I filled my leeward ballasts. In my misfortune, I successfully righted my boat.
“The greatest thing that I learnt from this race is that when there are problems, even if you are not confident enough in yourself to solve them, if you take things one by one, operating a little like a surgeon, you can solve them. I am not a born handyman, but I manage to do potentially incredible things by building a step by step plan of action.
You feel strengthened. You become more self-confident on an adventure such as this one. You need to work flat out and by succeeding in dealing with the ordeals one by one, this gives you self-confidence. Today I am a better sailor, but I also have an increased knowledge of myself.”
From racing to adventure: “You are a racer at heart. I left trying to win this race, but it changed course and became an adventure. In sporting terms, the goal was not achieved, but in human terms, it is much more than I could have hoped for. I think that it will be easier for me to get over the loss of my third place, because there is this glorifying side to the end of the race. I am proud to have brought back my Virbac-Paprec 3 to Les Sables d’Olonne.”
An exciting race with nothing done by halves: “You need to have an incredible desire and you need to fight. With the new generation in the race, you need extremely strong physical involvement. You really need to want to be there. There are no half measures.”
The race of Jean-Pierre Dick: Key points
- Greatest distance covered in 24 hours: Virbac-Paprec 3 covered the second greatest distance over 24 hours in this edition of the Vendée Globe clocking up 517.23 miles on 10th December. Average speed: 21.6 knots.
- Speed/ distance covered on the water: 13.4 knots/27,734 miles
- Number of rankings as leader (five rankings per day): 6 times
- Les Sables – Equator: 11d 00hrs 25mins (record held by Jean Le Cam since 2004-2005 race with a time of 10d 11hrs 28mins)
- Equator – Good Hope: 12d 02hrs 40mins (leading the fleet at that point)
- Good Hope – Cape Leeuwin: 12 d 13hrs25 mins
- Cape Leeuwin – Cape Horn: 18d 00hrs 12mins (new record)
- Cape Horn – Equator: 14d 5h 30mins
- Equator – Les Sables d’Olonne: 18d 5h 3mins