It takes a rare sailor to race solo nonstop around the world. It's an even rarer breed to sail the last 2,500 miles of that passage with no keel. Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac-Paprec 3 finished fourth in the Vendee Globe Race on February 4th. He was greeted by a large crowd at the finish at Les Sables d'Olonne who hailed his achievement of keeping his boat upright by using water ballast and setting the right sail area.
Along the way, Jean-Pierre also lost a small gennaker in the water, a sail that would have been his reaching workhorse, forcing him to re-think his strategy. He also struggled with a jammed halyard hook that forced him to climb the mast several times to free it. The worst mishap, of course, was when the keel of Virbac-Paprec 3 snapped off on the evening of January 21st in the North Atlantic.
Jean-Pierre Dick said: "The main feeling I have is pride, I am so proud just now of getting my boat back here across the finish line. It was not easy and I was not sure I would finish and so that is important too. And also finishing in a good position, that is important too. You have to really want to do it. And really dig deep into yourself to bring the boat home. I really tried to work the depression but it was not easy without a keel. It is this race which lets you do that and it is this public which appreciates it, it is just magical. So you can just about make it without a keel but only if you are super safe with reduced sail and then you can rest a bit, but as soon as you get more than 20% a heel then you have to be careful, you can heel too much and so you have to keep a small headsail area and the mainsail reefed right down to what you need."