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Southern Spars

Broken Vendee dreams and KWRW—Sailing news from the U.S. and beyond

by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor on 23 Jan 2013
Virbac Paprec 3 - 2012 Vendee Globe Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendée Globe © http://www.vendeeglobe.org
Imagine putting yourself through the physical and mental anguish of a solo, around-the-world-nonstop circumnavigation, only to have your dream of a Top Three finish in the fabled Vendee Globe snatched away due to materials failure (relatively) close to the finishing line. Absolutely gutting, but such was Jean-Pierre Dick’s hard-boiled reality earlier this week when the keel of his highly strung IMOCA 60, 'Virbac-Paprec 3', failed some 2,100 miles from the Les Sables d’Olonne, France finishing line.

While skipper Marc Guillemot famously finished the 2008/2009 Vendee Globe after dropping his keel (ballpark) 1,000 miles before the finishing line, Dick’s plight is much worse, especially given the deteriorating weather conditions, which could spell 40 knots. Here’s a recap of the incident, in Dick’s words, which he shared earlier today on Vendee Globe TV:

'It happened a little before midnight,' said Dick. 'There were already noises in the boat, rather strong and quite screeching. I thought it was the sound of keel jack but in fact the head of keel was already damaged. All of a sudden there was a popping noise.


'There were several squalls and then there was a new squall happening. The boat was lying on its side [and] in a second I realized that the keel had broken. I was able to quickly get to the mainsail winch to ease the mainsail a little. There was certainly a moment of doubt about the boat [but] luckily it didn’t flip over. After a few minutes I was able to ease the solent and furl it. The boat was safe enough to put in more [water] ballast and take a risk and further reduce the canvas.'

As for whether he can limp home with a broken boat or seek shelter from his storm is—not surprisingly—a philosophical question. 'The competitor and the sailor do not agree,' said Dick. 'Should I continue in a degraded state or abandon and go and hide in the Azores.' The answer, of course, will likely depend on the next few day’s worth of GRIB files and a careful risk-management assessment.

Elsewhere in the fleet, fellow skippers have expressed outrage that such a critical component could fail, given the race’s stringent design and material rules. Some skippers have even gone so far as to demand that future editions of the race require forged steel keels, rather than the composite appendages that are currently being used. More, inside.


Closer to home, the racecourse action has been hot (and breezy) at this year’s Quantum Key West Race Week, which is taking place this week in the Conch Republic. Impressively, Steve Benjamin’s 'Spookie' (a Carkeek 40) has posted four straight bullets in the High Performance Division (nine boats), while George Sakellaris’ 'Shockwave' has won three of her tussles with Hap Fauth’s 'Bella Mente' in the Mini Maxi class (two boats). Cole and James Allsopp’s 'Moxie' is sitting in pole position in the 39-strong J/70 class, while Alec Cutler’s 'Hedgehog' is leading the 23-boat fleet of Melges 24s. Be sure to get the full download, inside this issue, and stay tuned to the website for more KWRW news, as it unfurls.

Meanwhile, the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) recently announced that the 2014/2015 VOR fleet will return to Itajai, Brazil during the next race, en route from Cape Horn and the Southern Ocean leg. Itajai will be the fleet’s second visit to Brazil during this next edition of the VOR, as last week it was announced that Recife would be the fleet’s first stop, rather than the traditional long Leg One from Europe to the tip of southern tip of Africa.

'Making two stops in Brazil makes perfect sense at a time when the country will be the beating heart of sport between soccer's World Cup in 2014 and the Rio Olympic Games in 2016,' said Knut Frostad, CEO of the VOR. 'We are thrilled to be going back to Itajaí, which proved to be one of the most successful stopovers of the last edition with a rhythm all of its own.'

And in Cup circles, the news recently broke that Iker Martinez has split from Luna Rossa Challenge. 'We decided together to close our working relationship,' wrote skipper Max Sirena in a formal statement. 'The entire Team has enormous respect for Iker, he is a great sailor… We thank [him] for making a great contribution to the team with his talent and his technical and tactical skills in this sport. We wish him all the best for his future challenges.'


And finally, get the latest news from the Extreme Sailing Series, US Sailing’s 2013 Youth World Team and from the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami (January 28-February 2), where the Nacra 17 will make its Olympic class debut. Enjoy!

May the four winds blow you safely home,

RS Sailing 660x82Protector - 660 x 82Mackay Boats

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