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An interview with JP Dick on the 2023 Bermuda Lorient Pure Ocean Challenge

by David Schmidt 2 May 08:00 PDT May 7-June 4, 2023
Pure Ocean aims to raise environmental awareness and action by sponsoring events such as the Lorient-Bermuda Challege © Pure Ocean

A commute by any other name is just a commute, right? Not if you're considering transiting from the Caribbean back to Europe after a season of racing (or cruising) and are interested in linking up with the Bermuda Lorient Pure Ocean Challenge to help raise awareness about ocean-health issues. This year's challenge begins between May 7 and June 4 (participants agree on the starting date based on weather forecasts), and will take the fleet from Bermuda back to France.

Some backstory: Pure Ocean ( is based in Lorient and Marseille, France, and was founded by David Sussmann. The organization aims to raise public awareness about the ecological challenges that our planet is facing, and to create (and help fund) projects that help protect delicate marine ecosystems and biodiversity.

One of the ways that the organization, which is run by sailors, aims to raise awareness is through their annual transatlantic rally. Additionally, each participant is invited to make a minimum donation of 1,000 euros to Pure Ocean (see NOR for more information).

The event began small, but is now starting to attract the attention of yacht owners who are interested in a rally-style Atlantic crossing.

I checked in with legendary French offshore sailor and event ambassador JP Dick, via email, to learn more about the 2023 Bermuda Lorient Pure Ocean Challenge.

Can you please give me the latest updates on the Bermuda Lorient Pure Ocean Challenge since we corresponded last year?

We've had quite a bit of interest that has led to some new entries this year including a multihull, a TS42 with a crew of five, and a Volvo Open 70. The arrival of these new participants will intensify the competition and this is very exciting.

Pure Ocean's founder David Sussmann mentioned in an interview with me last year that one of the big goals is to attract more yachts that are returning to Europe after a season in the Caribbean. How's that going? Or, is the goal more about raising awareness than raising a fleet? The 4th edition of the Pure Ocean Challenge (and second edition of the Bermuda-Lorient route) is already a success with four sailboats departing Bermuda around May 7th.

The main goal is still of course to raise awareness about ocean health. We are thrilled that the Pure Ocean Challenge is attracting more boats as each team will provide content which Pure Ocean will be able to share with the media and on social media platforms.

Can you please tell us about any planned efforts to support ocean-facing scientific research?

As in 2022, my boat, The Kid- Notre Méditerranée -Ville de Nice, will participate in citizen science initiatives. With Nature Metrics, we will be sampling sea water, and we are in discussion with Oceano Vox to provide equipment to collect oceanographic data, which will be shared with research programs.

Each boat also contributes to raising vital funds via a crowdfunding platform. The funds are used to support innovative scientific research projects such as the Biossa project, which will be studying the impacts of sound pollution on cetaceans between Brazil and Chile.

Let's talk about raising the public's awareness about ocean-heath issues. Have you found that the challenge is a good vehicle for helping to increase awareness?

The Pure Ocean Challenge is a fantastic vehicle for raising awareness as it allows Pure Ocean to reach different audiences- in particular the sailing community. The challenge is competitive in the sense that there is a reference time to be beaten; however, it is not a race like any other and is really designed to promote ocean health issues.

During the crossing, Pure Ocean will share exclusive videos made by the participants. They will talk about the crossing and conditions but also transmit some key messages about climate change, biodiversity, plastic pollution and overfishing.

Let's talk about the route, from Bermuda to Lorient. What kinds of challenges do you expect to encounter?

It is a wonderful journey that allows us to observe incredible natural phenomena such as icebergs, the gulf stream currents, large ocean depressions and anticyclones. Moreover, the timing is perfect. We will enjoy the beautiful, long spring days.

On the other hand, the weather can hold surprises for us. The winds are still very strong with deep depressions moving eastwards. Last year we were surprised by very strong sea conditions.

I notice that there are no ice gates—how close to the ice are you guys willing to sail? Or, is going to the ice maybe part of the adventure?

The governments of the United States and Canada provide very specific information on this subject. We rely on the common sense of the seafarers and ask them to approach the crossing responsibly.

Can you tell us about any efforts that the challenge has made to try and lower its environmental wake? I realize that this is an offshore passage involving only a handful of yachts, but have you made any commitments to try and lower your carbon or overall environmental footprints?

Our goal is to use no fossil fuels. We installed solar panels on the Notre Méditerranée - Ville de Nice to be self-sufficient in electricity. Today the system works very well. The proof is that at Les Voiles de St Barth, we only use diesel for maneuvers in port that cannot be done under sail on such a large boat.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add about this year's challenge, for the record?

Pure Ocean founder David Sussmann and I are very proud to see that our initial initiative is paying off and that more boats are taking part. We look forward to welcoming new participants who share our values. It's going to be another great challenge.

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