Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron beat Roland Jourdain and Ellen MacArthur in close race to TJV finish

The seventh edition of the two-handed 4,340-mile Transat Jacques Vabre race, has effectively ended in the equivalent of a photo finish.

As the crowds lined the dockside at the Centro Nautico de Bahia, Brazil, onlookers had little idea which boat would appear out of the darkness first. But it was the Open 60 Virbac-Paprec raced by French skipper Jean-Pierre Dick and French racing legend Loick Peyron that crossed the finish line at 23:19:02 GMT – 35 minutes and 1 second ahead of Roland Jourdain and Ellen MacArthur onboard Sill et Veolia after a frenetic race across the Atlantic from Le Havre to Salvador de Bahia. Sill et Veolia crossed the finish line at 23:54:03 in an elapsed time of 13 days, 9 ours, 54 minutes and 3 seconds. Jourdain and MacArthur sailed 4,588 miles at an average speed of 14.95 knots.

These two latest generation Open 60 monohulls have been locked in a closely fought and intense battle since the very start of this race on the 5 November. It was Sill that took the first initiative leading the 12-boat Open 60 fleet out of the English Channel in the extreme storm-force conditions that rattled the fleet over the first 48 hours – forcing the abandonment of four ORMA 60 multihulls. But the lead held by the Anglo-French pair was minimal and by day four (10.11.05), Dick and Peyron had taken control. From there it was a game of cat and mouse with the Farr-designed Virbac-Paprec who seemed to hold the edge in boat-speed in the close and beam-reaching conditions.

Jourdain and MacArthur had to fight every inch of the way, briefly retaking the lead on day 9 (13.11.05) but a tougher than expected Doldrums crossing saw Virbac-Paprec come out ahead and, this time, they held on to the lead.

Both crews will be extremely fatigued after this mammoth battle especially since the last 24 hours have seen Sill et Veolia come within 8.7 miles at the final positions at 1900 GMT yesterday.

MacArthur and Jordain were never going to give up and tried everything they could on the final approach to Salvador de Bahia. For Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron it is a well-deserved win and for Dick it is his second successive victory in the Open 60 monohull class in this classic two-handed transatlantic race.

Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron also obliterated the existing monohull course record in a time of 13 days, 9 hours, 19 minutes and 2 seconds taking 3 days, 3 hours, 25 mins off the existing record set in 2001 by Roland Jourdain and Gael Le Cleac’h on the older generation Sill.

Ellen’s comments at the finish

How do you think this race was won and lost?

Well, we really struggled after the Equator because we were behind and the way it works is like it’s a little bit like an escalator and whoever gets off the front keeps on taking more and more miles. Basically, Virbac got away and he pulled away more and more and more in better breeze all the time so we got stuck behind.

Just tell what you and Roland tried to do in the last 24hours to get back on Virbac-Paprec?

We tried to close the gap 24 hours ago and we basically said we’ve got to try everything to get back those miles, so last night after the last position report we headed quite a long way inshore and that worked brilliantly and we managed to get back down to 15 or 13 miles this morning. But that still wasn’t enough so we tried something else this afternoon and, again, that worked really, really well but not well enough and we got down to 8 miles but it wasn’t good enough.

How are you feeling now?

I think we’re pretty glad to be in but pretty frustrated to be second? We sailed a very hard race, I think we sailed a good race, we were pretty unlucky in the Doldrums and things just didn’t really go our way. But we tried everything we could to pull back what we could but sadly it wasn’t enough.

What do you think about the pace of these newer generation Open 60s?

I think the speed has been absolutely incredible. I’ve sailed 60-footers a lot but this was really something different. Sailing two-handed normally helps a little bit and you’re not too tired but certainly within the first week we were absolutely exhausted. I mean so tired that Bilou (aka Roland Jourdain) fell asleep drinking a cup of tea in front of me and just dropped the tea! It really was extraordinarily hard and it seemed that every time we tried to sleep it was another sail change but we just kept pushing and that’s what kept us up with the leaders.

Were you happy to be racing with Roland Jourdain?

It was fantastic racing with Bilou [Roland Jourdain] and to get back to the 60s?brilliant boats, they really are. They go through anything and it was great to be sailing on one again. But sailing with Bilou is very special – I very much took on this race because Bilou asked me to do this and we both got an enormous amount of pleasure doing this race together. We laughed so much and I think I’ve laughed more with Bilou in this race than over the past year! Sure we didn’t win and a little bit upset because of that but I’ve certainly got no regrets going out there and doing what we did. It was an amazing race.

Have you spoken with Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron [Virbac-Paprec crew]?

They jumped on the boat as soon as we tied up! I think they were pretty happy certainly to get in first.