Jean-Pierre Dick, fourth in the Vendée Globe
Thursday, January 26, 2017
French skipper Jean-Pierre Dick crossed the finish line of the eighth Vendée Globe at 1347hrs UTC on Wednesday 25th January. The skipper of StMichel Virbac completed his solo round the world voyage in 80 days 1 hour 45 minutes and 45 seconds. Jean-Pierre Dick sailed 27,857 miles at the average speed of 14.5 knots.
Dick, who also finished fourth in the last edition of the race in 2012-13, finally held on to win a tense thriller of a three cornered battle for fourth place which peaked early this morning. Pursued by two of the most accomplished French sailors in the race, Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam, Dick saw the 60 nautical miles lead he had yesterday morning eroded to just six miles early this morning. But the ‘gentleman skipper’ who has won two round the world Barcelona World Races and now completed three Vendée Globes held his nerve.
Sixth in 2004-2005, he abandoned into New Zealand in 2008 and finished fourth in 2012-2013, Dick was aiming to win on his fourth attempt at the Vendée Globe Jean-Pierre Dick. He built a new, foil equipped VPLP-Verdier designed IMOCA but had to abandon last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre with structural issues. As for some others his boat spent much of last winter and spring in the boatyard being strengthened, losing valuable preparation and training time. A qualified veterinary surgeon who originates from Nice, Dick left the family business and moved to Brittany to become a solo and short handed racer. But a combination of an early tactical error and technical problems saw him lose touch with the early pacemakers. He dropped into different weather systems and, although he made back hundreds of miles at different stages in the race Dick has to settle for fourth place.
JP Dick’s race
After getting off to a good start, with StMichel-Virbac in second place not far behind the leader, Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), JP made a tactical mistake to the south of Madeira and tumbled to twelfth place. The frontrunners were able to make their getaway, not getting stuck in the Doldrums, while Dick’s best hope then was to catch Jean le Cam, then in ninth place. After that the two skippers would remain close together to the point where Le Cam referred to the “duel between King Jean and the Black Knight.” Jean-Pierre Dick was obviously disappointed as his “friends are over a thousand miles ahead of me… I need to stay zen.”
Exclusion zone and the Bass Strait
In the Indian Ocean, the JP Dick was able to make the most of his foil, surfing in 35 knot winds along the edge of the Antarctic exclusion zone and clawing back miles on Yann Eliès. Unfortunately for Dick, he inadvertently crossed the red line into the Antarctic Exclusion Zone and had to turn back and retrace his course which cost him eight hours.
Avoiding a nasty low just to the SE of Australia, Dick took un unusual option, routing 400 miles to the north to become the first Vendée Globe racer ever to pass through the Bass Strait, north of Tasmania. Not only did the route give him the shelter and safety he sought, but it proved a coup against his two adversaries who had slowed and struggled in the south in much stronger winds and big seas. The safe choice also paid off tactically and in the end, the Black Knight got back up with his two rivals, who were halted in a huge southern storm. Jean-Pierre Dick passed Cape Horn at New Year in fourth position, 700 miles behind Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) and 130 miles ahead of Jean le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent).
A tricky climb back up the Atlantic
In the severe weather in the South Atlantic, the three skippers took it in turns to hold fourth, fifth and sixth place. On 13th January, the skipper of StMichel-Virbac, who was very fast when he could use his foils, set a new reference time between Cape Horn and the Equator with a time of 13 days 3 hours and 59 minutes. But the experience of Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam meant that even his new generation foiler was under threat from their older, convenitionally configured boats. “I really have to work hard, as I’m up against the best Figaro racers on the circuit, who have clocked up six wins in that event between them,” Dick commented during a radio session.
The three skippers remained close to each other, getting little sleep, paying attention to their trimming, while keeping an eye out in these waters where there is a lot of shipping. In the final days to the finish JP Dick fell over in his boat and cut his chin. He had to staple the wound back together, not an easy operation with the boat being tossed around at 20 knots. Dick had to fight tooth and nail until the end to stay in fourth place, not the result he was hoping for, but the gentleman sailor - as Loick Peyron, his regular co-skipper whom he won the Transat Jacques Vabre with and the Barcelona World Race - called him has achieved a remarkable performance finishing behind three giants of the race. When Dick finished Elies was around 12 miles behind
What are your first impressions about this race?
Jean-Pierre Dick: “This race was a huge pleasure. It builds your mental strength and I’m proud although I didn’t take third place. I got my boat too late on, but this was a fantastic adventure and I’m pleased to have finished. Each of my Vendée Globe races has been different. The first time there was the joy of taking part. Then, there was the frustration with the loss of the keel… This time I had some technical problems, which sent me off track. I would have like to have been in the battle with Alex and Armel.”
What will you remember most from this race?
Jean-Pierre Dick: “One of the key moments for me was going through the Bass Strait, which was not an easy decision to take. My routing came up with that, and so I said why not? But in some places the depth of water was only 20m. There was also that moment when I entered the exclusion zone, because of a mix-up with my files. There was a funny moment too when I noticed weed growing under the boat. I spent two hours under the water cleaning it off. I had the impression that weed was starting to grow on me, but it was sea creatures I could feel.”