Jean-Pierre Dick has bravely succeeded in completing his 2500-mile keel-less balancing act to safely finish in the Vendée Globe singlehanded round the world race.
He crossed the Les Sables d’Olonne finishing line with Virbac Paprec 3 after 86 days, 3 hours, 3 minutes, 40 seconds at sea – sailing for the final 13 days without a keel. Incredible. And he finished fourth, his time fast enough to have come second in the previous, 2008-2009 edition, and to win any before that.
But thoughts are tempered by relief: just over 24 hours earlier, one of his fellow competitors was extremely fortunate after yet another keel broke off. Javier ‘Bubi’ Sanso was thrown from ACCIONA 100% EcoPowered and lived to tell his tale.
The footage of Sanso being winched into the Azores-based helicopter – which was close to its operating limits – will make every sailor shudder. In more northern latitudes, would he have survived for 12 hours in a liferaft dressed only in soaked first layer thermals?
We discussed a little of the history of extreme yacht keels here. In W.M. “Winkie” Nixon’s most recent Afloat magazine Saturday blog – a weekly must read – he revisits the story of one of the pioneers of the second phase of fin-and-bulb keels, the Van de Stadt designed Black Soo of 1961.
There will be a lot of soul-searching about keel design to come. Fingers crossed for the rest of the fleet.
Edit 5th February: we paid Jean-Pierre a disservice earlier: he actually sailed more than 2500 miles without a keel. It’s well worth following his experiences here. The kind of sailing skill he was employing sounds like the equivalent of an F1 motor racing driver trying to drive an F1 car legally on normal roads – town, country and motorway – on slick tyres.