Next Time Around A Different World for Jean-Pierre Dick

Jean-Pierre Dick
© Jean-Marie Liot / Vendée Globe

Finishing with a fine victory, sailing past Salvador's iconic Farrol da Barrol lighthouse in the radiant sunshine, it was an elegant, well executed win to sign off from the Imocaclass, and signal his desire to refocus his future and, at 55 years old, to alter course away from the elusive Vendée Globe win.
Hard at work on the deck of St Michel Virbac until long after the actual TJV finish line, the tall, blond haired skipper who moved to Brittany from his native Nice, seems to prolong his need to stay in race mode, clutching the helm of the St Michel Virbac, savouring his final moments with the Imoca which has just taken them to first place and which brought him to fourth in the last Vendée Globe.

At his side is Yann Eliès who will shortly take over his boat, the pair sharing the Transatlantic victory together. Eliès is a picture of quiet discretion, staying super low profile making sure the limelight is cast on the personable JP who has raced in the Imoca class since early in the 2000s.
When he came into the class, a total rookie to solo racing having come from crewed competition and notably winning the Tour de France à la Voile, he went in at the deep end. A qualified veterinarian and graduate of HEC International Business School, JP came to sailing early, through cruising with his father. But even after winning the Tour Voile, there was skepticism when Dick, regarded by some as a somewhat cosseted Sudist (Southerner) from a well off background, announced his dream to race the Vendée Globe.
"Whoever now claims they did not sneer when they saw him at first in Port-la-Forêt is a liar." smiles Eliès. But on the 2004-5 race Dick's sheer grit and tenacity, finishing sixth in 98 days after power problems latterly plagued his race.

"He proved that even if you do not have the experience, sheer willpower alone can move mountains. He lived through and dealt with technical problems which, frankly, I dread to even think about far less have to suffer one day." Eliès recalls. "But then there were his Transat Jacques Victories and two back to back round the world race victories on the Barcelona World Race."

"I'm afraid of doing one Vendée Globe too many."

JP Dick's sixth place in 2004-5 was followed by having to retire into Auckland, NZ in 2008-9 after hitting ice whilst contending for the lead. In 2012 he was on course for third when he lost his keel 2600 nautical miles from the finish then had to sit out a storm, sheltering on the NW corner of Spain and ceding his podium finish to Alex Thomson. And 2016 he again confirmed he was a podium contender but early technical problems and a poor strategic choice left him chasing the leaders, taking fourth again but holding off a spirited final challenge from Eliès and Jean Le Cam.

"It still niggles me not to be going back to race in the Vendée Globe because the itch is still always there. It's an open wound that's not been closed." asserts JP, "I never achieved the race that I wanted, that I dreamed of. The podium has always eluded me. I am not giving up because I am over it, because the drive and desire are no longer there, but I just know that I don't want to do one Vendée Globe too many. I am realistic enough to realise that at 55 it would be difficult to win. And it is just not in my being, in my modus operandi to do things by halves, to not invest myself wholly and completely in a project. I could not do it if I harboured reservations. And to do it only for the personal satisfaction of my own pleasure would not be motivating for my team."

And so while he looks for the sporting project that will continue to challenge his own competitive urges in the years to come Jean-Pierre Dick has already started the next phase of his business and management career. He is forging ahead with the Absolute Dreamer company and the Imoca project now in the hands of Yann Eliès. The company has developed a small foiling cat, Easy To Fly, the JP54 fast cruising sports monohull - as fast as a Vendée Globe racer with the luxury of a yacht, and more recently Absolute Dreamer have started the robot driven manufacture of foils using techniques from the aeronautical industry.

"It's not too late to build for 2020."

One of the top priorities right now is to find additional sponsors to support Eliès in their quest for him to win the next Vendée Globe.

"We will set Yann up in 2020 with the current St Michel Virbac but it will be fully updated and optimised, or with a new boat. That will depend on the resources package we can put together for him. It is not too late to build, particularly because right now it does not seem like there will be that many new boats being built for the next race. That is unlike the last edition when we were last to announce and build and so we were restricted by the busy schedules of the different builders."
Asking Jean-Pierre about the economics of it all and he is objective. You are a business graduate and a business CEO, how does the Vendée Globe hold up from the perspective of a business.
"We have been doing this for 15 years and it is not a passing whim, an indulgence. There are so many benefits and effective spin offs. To make the big piece of cake you have to see the project all the way through and get to the end. The return on investment is exceptional, especially if you can win it. Look at Banque Populaire winning with Armel and their return was over 55 million euros. And with St Michel-Virbac in fourth we had a really strong economic performance as well. Economically it all works well and that is why, for 2020, I am going on with my business head on."

But he is not giving up sail racing and the sea. He is taking time out right now to think exactly what he wants to take on next. He is not ruling out anything, especially offshore racing. But when he turns up in Port Olona, Les Sables d'Olonne in three years time at the start of the race he will be there to bid the skippers good luck and God speed.


© Vincent Curutchet / ALeA / TJV2017Footnote
Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès won the 13th Transat Jacques-Vabre on November 18th in a new course record time of 13 days, 7 hours, 36 minutes and 46 seconds.  For the skipper of St-Michel-Virbac, this is his fourth victory on the race, the sixth two up after two Barcelona World Race wins to his name. Elsewhere in the Imoca class second place went to Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet who, with their conventionally foiled SMA, beat four of the five foilers. Both serious candidates for the next Vendée Globe, Morgan Lagravière and Eric Peron (Des Voiles et Vous) underlined their potential by taking third place. Germany's Boris Herrmann announced his arrival back in the Imocaclass in fourth place alongside Thomas Ruyant. With an older boat, Kito de Pavant and Yannick Bestaven take fifth place ahead of Tanguy de Lamotte and Samantha Davies, a project on which - like Dick's - the baton is being handed over. In the end the thirteen boats all entered reached the finish line which is excellent news for the Imoca class.

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