The launch of Jean-Pierre Dick's new Paprec-Virbac sets the latest Vendée Globe trend

The launch of French solo sailor Jean-Pierre Dick’s new IMOCA 60 Virbac-Paprec 3 in New Zealand sets an important trend for the upcoming Barcelona World Race later this year and for the 2012 Vendée Globe.

Just as he did four years ago, the soft-spoken former vet is leading something of a rush for a new design philosophy. He was in the vanguard when Farr Yacht Design was the flavour of choice last time.

Now the fashion has swung to favour a collaboration between multihull experts VPLP and ex-Groupe Finot designer Guillaume Verdier, and JP Dick’s Paprec-Virbac is the first of a new batch from these designers to go into the water.

The change in tack, as it were, is an interesting one. The Farr boats are powerful – indeed they may still be some of the fastest around as they have been grandfathered by amendments to the class rule which limit the righting moment and mast height of all new builds.

The new VPLP/Verdier boats will be lighter, less heavily ballasted, in many ways more delicate.

Like JP Dick, Vincent Riou and Michel Desjoyeaux have opted to swap Farr designs for VPLP/Verdier. These are stellar talents, design freaks and intellectuals to a man, yet almost all their counterparts on this side of the Channel are looking at their choices, scratching their heads and asking: “Why?”

The VPLP/Verdier combination produced Safran, a boat that was much admired and looked fabulous, but until skipper Marc Guillemot won the Transat Jacques Vabre race last December it never fulfilled its potential.

So: why the rush for this new fashion in design?

The theory behind Paprec-Virbac, loosely, is a step away from the trend of IMOCA 60s designs to get wider, heavier and more powerful. The emphasis is on developing appendage shapes and effects, reducing weight through refined structures and load transfer, and introducing some of the lessons learned from racing multihulls. 

The new Paprec-Virbac has curved daggerboards and a very fine keel fin, the result of studies into the interaction of keel and daggerboards to try to achieve the maximum righting moment with a minimum of water ballast.

These new designs will be less stiff than their predecessors and their crews will reef earlier. The argument is that there are less gears to change through, making it easier to make sail changes at the optimum time. VPLP are firm believers that these transition moments are critical.

What other features are different? JP Dick’s team point to the fixed, two-spreader which has a single backstay to reduce weight and drag. They also say the twin coachroof with Plexiglass dome will allow JP to stay dry and protected and allow him to operate more effectively.


Paprec-Virbac 3


This was the design idea first tried on Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss and he has chosen to incorporate it into his new boat. Unlike Thomson’s boat, which had two wheels, this has a single tiller to save weight. “This time we agree to manoeuvre wet,” JP comments – ahem – drily.

Another little feature, a safety hatch in the centre of the hull, stems from the harsh lessons learned after the capsize of Jean Le Cam’s VM Matériaux in the Vendée Globe, when the boat was so fully ballasted aft that the transom escape hatch was nearly underwater.

Just as he did four years ago, JP Dick is going to sail his new boat home to France from New Zealand. He says it’s the perfect sea trial.