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Jean-Pierre Dick on the Global Solo Challenge: “Don't prepare half-heartedly for such a challenge!”

by Global Solo Challenge 13 Sep 2022 15:15 BST
Jean-Pierre Dick at the chart-table of his JP54 - Global Solo Challenge © Ivor Wilkins

"Je conseille à tous les navigateurs de ne pas préparer un tel défi à mi-temps !"

At 56 years old, French skipper Jean-Pierre Dick has an impressive track record. He is a four times winner of the Transat Jacques Vabre, twice winner of the Barcelona World Race, and he has also participated in four Vendée Globe Challenges, finishing twice on the podium. On November 6th, 2022, Jean-Pierre Dick will be on the starting line of the next Route du Rhum (his 4th entry) aboard his JP 54. The boat is 17 meters long, and designed in New Zealand by architect Guillaume Verdier. (Interestingly, it has the ideal characteristics to participate in the Global Solo Challenge).

We recently met him and took the opportunity to ask his opinion on the GSC.

You are going to participate in the next Route du Rhum aboard your JP 54 The Kid, renamed Notre Méditerranée - Ville de Nice, in the "mono Rhum" category. How do you prepare such a demanding race?

As usual, you have to be on several fronts at the same time. I often compare the solo sailor to the juggler in the circus who keeps the Chinese plates spinning on chopsticks. Like him, the sailor must be able to do several things at once in very different sector. Preparation of the equipment, safety, navigation, meteorology, mechanics, obating sponsorship, etc. And at the same time he has to take care not "break" any equipment! I've been lucky enough to do a lot of solo projects, so I've learned a lot and which thing will need to be done quickly. But it's still an adventure.

Many of the GSC skippers have told us that the hardest part will surely be being on the starting line. Do you understand that sentiment?

Absolutely, that's my story and the story of my company, Absolute Dreamer. It was a dream to participate in the Vendée Globe - I had a normal job in a company - but I had no experience in ocean racing at the time. It's a completely different discipline. Then in 2001, Michel Desjoyeaux won the Vendée Globe and jokingly said to a journalist at the finish line: "Doing the Vendée Globe is within everyone's reach, you just have to give yourself the means! This sentence resonated with me and I did everything I could to get to the start line. To fulfil this vision I had to take it step by step.

What are these steps?

There are two essential aspects in the preparation for such a challenge. First of all the boat, that's obvious. It has to be able to face all situations and be safe. Then there is the sailor. For the Vendée Globe, I trained myself by choosing the appropriate consultants: In meteorology, mental preparation, physical preparation, nutritionist, etc. I also learned to delegate, from an administrative point of view. Finally, there is the synergy between the two. The sea is cruel, and you have to be able to picture, at any moment, the thousands of objects on the boat. If you are not able to locate an object as insignificant as a lighter at any time, it will be a problem once you reach the Southern Ocean. Training is therefore essential not only to have the right equipment on board but also to be able to find it.

What do you think of the Global Solo Challenge and its innovative format?

The format is good. Going around the World was my dream, but I know how complicated it is to achieve. The fact that an event can allow boats other than IMOCA or Class 40 and with moderate budgets to sail around the world will allow sailors to realize their dream too. But be careful, it is a very involved project, it must not be prepared half-heartedly...

What do you mean by that? Do you have any advice for participants in the Global Solo Challenge?

I would advise all sailors that they should not prepare for such a challenge half-heartedly! You cannot arrive at La Coruña without being perfectly ready. All the skippers I have seen leave on a whim have had the door hit them on the nose. Once again, preparation is essential, especially for the skipper, whose work cannot then be delegated. Finally, once you are racing, you have to learn to take it easy. During my first Vendée Globe Challenge in 2004, I didn't manage my start well. From the first week, I found myself in a difficult situation and it took me a long time to get back into shape. This had an impact on my performance.

You have sailed around the World six times and therefore know the Global Solo Challenge course well. What do you think will be the biggest challenges for the participants?

Leaving from La Coruña is good news for the participants, even if the passage of Cape Finisterre could be complicated. Normally, the skippers will be in the Trade Winds fairly quickly and the descent of the Atlantic will take a reasonable time. They will have time to get their bearings before the southern seas. This is where things will get complicated, it's the hardest part of the adventure and will last almost 5 months for some. But it is a fascinating place, especially the first time you go there.

Once the Route du Rhum is over, you mentioned that you would like to accompany a skipper on a long-term project aboard your JP 54. A boat that would be ideal to participate in the Global Solo Challenge. Tell us about it.

The JP 54 fits perfectly with the roadmap of such a challenge especially from a performance objective. It is a boat with ideal characteristics for solo sailing and she goes very fast. Especially on this route where the points of sail are downwind 80% of the time. Moreover, this is the only round the World challenge in which it can compete, given her IRC rating of 1.360, which is close to the upper limit of 1.370, and its size of 54 feet. But it's a boat that requires support. What I propose, is to advise and train a skipper on a long term project on board my JP 54 in order to hand over the reins to him or her. Considering the short time left before the start of the GSC, I imagine supporting an entry will be for the next edition, unless a profile really stands out.

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