Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron won the Barcelona World Race with speed to spare
In winning the two-handed Barcelona World Race for a second time, Jean-Pierre Dick joins a tiny elite of sailors who have won multiple shorthanded round the world races. The former vet, who went into full-time professional sailing only in 2003, is in company with three sailing legends: Christophe Auguin; Alain Gautier; and Michel Desjoyeaux.
In the last eight years, this highly organised and methodical sailor has logged more miles in the IMOCA 60 class than anyone else. In that time he has developed three different generations of yacht primarily sponsored by his family’s animal pharmaceuticals company Virbac, sailed them back home from being built in New Zealand and raced three times round the world.
It would have been four times round the world had he not had to pull out of the last Vendée Globe with rudder damage. As is the norm in this class, Dick has had his fair share of bad luck.
His route to the top has been achieved through persistence and not through any lucky breaks. His tenacity earned him the nickname ‘the Black Knight’, a rather gruesome reference to the character in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who keeps on fighting and yelling “I’m invincible” as, one by one, his limbs are hacked off.
JP Dick’s ‘odd couple’ partnership with Loick Peyron (pictured above, with Dick on the right) is an interesting one. The two are opposites in many ways and this has amused followers. Race director Denis Horeau says: “One is tall, the other is short. One is funny and exuberant [Peyron], the other more reserved.”
Loïck Peyron is massively experienced and a natural sailor that Dick tells me is as agile on board “as a cat”. My impression is that Dick is more analytical and deliberate but perhaps less spontaneous.
The combination clearly worked, but Dick admits it had its low points – “not professional, but personal,” he says.
“If there was food everywhere you could get a bit annoyed. I’m not always good at remembering to put things back where they should be and that’s not so nice for others. And the lack of privacy, especially for toilet things, could be tricky sometimes.”
But what many think, including the odd couple themselves, is that they had enough reserves in the performance tank to keep 2nd placed class newcomers Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez at bay without too much stress.
The Spanish Olympic medallists have sailed an incredible race, particularly for a pair who had no experience in IMOCA 60s until 14 months ago, but aboard Virbac Paprec the two rival old hands were able to stave off any offensive by going up a warp speed.
“We did give the impression of dominating the race,” Dick agrees. “If we wanted to accelerate we could. The only point in the race when we were under pressure was when we were racing against [Michel Desjoyeaux and François Gabart in] Foncia, when we broke the class 24-hour record.”
They set a record of 516.3 miles in the Indian Ocean and it was two days later that Desjoyeaux and Gabart were dismasted.
Thereafter, the heat was off, and it made it possible for Dick and Peyron to make a 48-hour pitstop in New Zealand to fix batten cars and replace a stoved-in helmsman’s bubble window and still come back out with a 120-mile lead over Martinez and Fernandez.
The 24-hour record shows that this latest generation of lighter IMOCA 60s is indeed faster. The class skippers agreed to cap mast height so much more ingenuity has gone into saving weight. The Virbac Paprec team tell me this boat is 10-15% lighter than previous big-rigged, fat-assed versions.
But I suspect we may not yet have seen the full potential of the boat under continued pressure, or so the figures suggest. Virbac Paprec’s average rhumb line speed round the world was 11.18 knots on the course sailed. That compares to 12.5 knots average by Michel Desjoyeaux when he won the Vendée Globe solo in 2009.