Vendée Globe : Arrivals in gusts…


Jean-Pierre Dick is fourth : 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 finishedn Eliès was around 12 miles behind.

170125-Yann-EliesYann Eliès is fifth : When Yann Eliès crossed the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne at 1513hrs UTC on Wednesday 25th January to take fifth place, the French skipper achieved his primary goal, conquering the solo non stop round the world race which nearly cost him his life during an epic 2008-9 edition. Rescued by the Australian Navy after breaking his leg 800 miles south of Australia, Eliès said before the start that only now did he feel mentally and physically strong enough to compete in the Vendée Globe again. The race time for Eliès is 80 days 3 hours 11 minutes and 9 seconds. Eliès sailed 27,132 miles at an average speed of 14.1 knots.

Three times winner of La Solitaire du Figaro Eliès believed that if he could complete the race in good shape then he would not be far from the podium. In fifth he is the first skipper to complete this edition of the race using conventional, straight daggerboards, rather than the foils as used by the top four skippers. Winner Armel Le Cléac’h, second placed Alex Thomson, Jérémie Beyou in third and now fourth placed Jean-Pierre Dick all raced IMOCAs fitted with foils.

The skipper of Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir has finally exorcised the ghosts of the 2008-9 race with this solid fifth place, and has already stated his desire to compete again in 2020 with a boat and programme capable of winning. He brave return to the Vendée Globe prompted his long time rival Jérémie Beyou to say yesterday how much he admired Eliès. “He wanted a competitive project and it’s incredible that he even returned to this race. I’m not sure I would have had the strength to do that after going through what he went through before. I’ll be there to hear what he has to say, because what he has done is incredible.”

Since the start on 6th November, Yann Eliès has shown that he was one to watch because of his competitiveness, experience and skills, having won among other races three editions of the Solitaire du Figaro. Eliès raced what was the first of the VPLP-Verdier designed boats, the former Safran previously skippered by Marc Guillemot, which came third in the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe and, ironically, the boat on which Guillemot stood by the injured Eliès for two days before rescue arrived.

Off Cape Finisterre, Yann Eliès was in the top ten alongside Paul Meilhat and Jérémie Beyou, and then Sébastien Josse and Vincent Riou. Off the Cape Verde Islands, he was in eighth place, where he remained at the Equator, in spite of a tricky Doldrums passage. Eliès was then sailing ahead of Jean Le Cam and Jean-Pierre Dick, two competitors he would meet up with later in the race. Damage to his mainsail hook led to him lose around fifty miles and this hold-up would cause further losses.

On the way down the South Atlantic, he found a good tactical option. On around 20th November, the seven frontrunners made their getaway and would continue to extend their lead. Huge gaps developed as the leaders extended away on a low pressure system. Yann Eliès found himself 300, then 800 and almost 1200 miles behind the leaders and it looked like he would get punished again along with some others, who would find themselves in a completely different race over 3000 miles back from the leaders.

Eliès tried a daring option sailing down a narrow a strip of wind to cut across the South Atlantic. It worked out and at the Cape of Good Hope, Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir had managed to limit the damage to a thousand miles. In sixth position in the Indian Ocean ahead of Jean Le Cam and Jean-Pierre Dick, he put his race on hold for 24 hours when he was forced to slow down to let a huge southern storm arriving from Madagascar go by. There he found himself alone in the Indian Ocean, a long way from Jérémie Beyou ahead of him and Jean Le Cam behind. Eliès crossed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin in fifth place after 33 days and 4 hours on 9th December, 24 hours after Jérémie Beyou.

Duel in the Pacific
The course south of Australia went without hitch for him apart from the gales forcing him to slow down, while those in front got still further ahead. To the south of Australia once more he had to slow down once again as ahead of him winds of between 60 and 80 knots were forecast. Here Jean Le Cam went south while Jean-Pierre Dick headed north to go through the Bass Strait. It was after that that the three would get back together again south of New Zealand… and they would remain together for the second half of the race around the world. In the Pacific, Dick got ahead thanks largely to his foils. But Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam found themselves sailing alongside each other. On 30th December at Cape Horn they went round one after the other, Jean-Pierre Dick went by at 0634hrs, followed by Jean Le Cam at 1548hrs, with Yann Eliès rounding just under an hour later. Emerging safely from the south Eliès was even more determined to complete the circle and complete this Vendée Globe. Dick went for a different option passing through the Le Maire Strait and east of the Falklands around the same time as Eliès tore the leech of his mainsail. But the former sailmaker was able to repair the damage.

In the climb back up the Atlantic, Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam stuck together, crossing the Equator just half an hour apart after 67 days on 13th January. As they rounded the Azores high, Eliès even had Jean-Pierre Dick in his sights. The two of them attempted to take a shorter route than Dick, but the gap was just too wide and Eliès finishes in fifth place.

Tags on NauticNews : Vendée Globe, IMOCA, Jean-Pierre Dick, Yann Eliès

– PR –

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