Virbac-Paprec 3 loses its keel Monday night

At 23.45 hrs UTC Monday, Jean-Pierre Dick called his team to inform them that his boat, Virbac-Paprec 3, had lost its whole keel an hour earlier. The skipper from Nice has stabilised the situation. The boat has full ballast and Dick is sailing at 8 knots towards the Azores. Virbac-Paprec 3 was in third place of the Vendée Globe, about 500 miles northwest of the Cape Verde islands.

Jean-Pierre Dick told the race office by satellite phone:

"I was sailing on starboard tack under mainsail with one reef and the solent (sail), in 20 knots of wind. I was inside when the wind increased suddenly. I went out to adjust the sails. At that moment, I heard a loud bang.

“Virbac-Paprec 3 went to the luff and was pushed on its side. I eased the mainsail sheet and solent sheet. I furled it (the solent). I went to the end of the boom and eased the running backstay. I went downwind smoothly and the boat slowly went back into the right position. I filled all the ballasts to stabilise the boat.

I am heading to the Azores at 8 knots with two reefs in the mainsail and with a staysail. The situation is stabilised and I think that there is no risk of capsizing. My dream of a podium finish in the Vendée Globe has suddenly sunk.”

Dick, still technically in third place on the ranking because he has not retired, is heading for shelter at the Azores, still over 1,000 miles away on Monday morning. He is on a starboard tack in a northeast wind of 20 knots. He cannot take a direct route at the moment and must head north-east for two days, but in 450 miles he should pick up some undisturbed south-west wind and will be able to head directly to the Azores archipelago. He is expected to arrive there in six days, which will be a difficult time because he was expected to have arrived in Les Sables by then.

Already in this race, the North Atlantic claimed two keels in the first two weeks of this race, when Marc Guillemot’s titanium keel broke off on the first night and then Jeremie Beyou suffered hydraulic failure of the canting mechanism and almost lost the whole keel in the second week.

Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) who could now achieve both his targets of third place and 80 days around the world. But Dick’s sudden failure will have sent a shudder through him and the entire fleet and underlined the old Vendée cliché that ‘to finish first (or anywhere) first you have to finish.’ The race is not over until you cross the finish line at Les Sables d’Olonne.

Vendee Globe - Rankings Tuesday, 22 January 2013, 05:00 hrs (UK)
1. Macif, François Gabart
2. Banque Populaire, Armel Le Clac'h, 95 nm to the leader
3. Virbac Paprec 3, Jean-Pierre Dick 421 nm
4. HUGO BOSS, Alex Thomson, 657 nm
5. Gamesa, Mike Golding, 2284 nm
6. SynerCiel, Jean Le Cam, 2285 nm
7. Mirabaud, Dominique Wavre, 2481 nm
8. Acciona 100% EcoPowered, Javier Sansó, 2544 nm
9. AKENA Vérandas, Arnaud Boissières, 2608 nm
10. Votre Nom Autour du Monde avec EDM Projets, Bertrand de Broc, 3116 nm
11. Initiatives-coeur, Tanguy De Lamotte, 3423 nm
12. Team Plastique, Alessandro Di Benedetto, 4182