Vendee Globe Banque Populaire and Armel Le Cleac’h

Banque Populaire is a co-op of banks, including retail and commercial & insurance companies around France. The holding/parent company-Groupe BP is publicly traded on the Paris Bourse. Their revenue from the Core business line for first three quarters 2012 is 5 Billion Euros.
The English website for what looks like their charitable arm states that BP has: 36 million customers, 8.5 million cooperative shareholders, 117,000 employees & 8,000 branches
In addition to  sponsoring (their first) Vendee globe entry they also sponsor a Figaro Team and are the Marque behind the current holder of the Trophe Jules Verne, the 130 foot trimaran Banque Populaire V.
They have been sponsoring Sailing since 1990 (22 years) so one must assume they like what the relationship with sailing is doing for them.

They are also an Official Partner, since 2000, of the FFV, an Official Partner of the French Olympic Team and they are the Official Partner of The Association Eric Tabarly. On their BP Voile site, there is a blow by blow of the Vendee Globe apparently direct from the VG site and the boat itself, currently leading (1430 EST-Saturday). The Vendee Imoca 60 Team Face Book page has 6500 likes-Up from 5295 earlier this week. There is also a BP You Tube channel-for just the IMOCA 60, with 25 videos on it.

Let’s see:
Figaro for a season: 500,000 Euros. IMOCA 60 for 4 years, at this level, 24m Euros. (Easy math-6m a year
This is the tricky one-a 130 foot Ocean greyhound tri…Euro10 million a year?
Consider: 10 guys in the crew, at least that many in the pits, a mainsail is probably a quarter Million Euros…2,3,4 serious Ribs,simply painting it is probably the same amount of Euros….
Total sailing sponsorship (including the Olympics, FFV and Tabarly…? I guess north of 20-25 million Euros a year.

It seems as though our boy Armel has  been recruited by a big program with lots of resources. One wonders why?

(Trivia section-His older brother Gael is the boat captain for Vincent Riou on PRB…)

From the VG skipper’s dossiers section:
2nd 2000
1st 2003
1st Solo offshore racing Championship 2003
4th in 2004 Plus winning the Transat AG2R-trans-at in the Figaro 2
1st 2010 Win, again in the Transat Ag2R
4th Route Du Rhumb 2006
IMOCA world champ and 4th in The Artemis Transat-2008 formerly the O.S.T.A.R.
2nd Vendee Globe in 2008/9
2nd Route du Rhumb 2010
3rd in the TJV 2011
2nd in the B2B (A solo race back to France from Columbia or wherever the Rd R finishes-It is another VG qualifier) after R du R in 2011
3rd In the Europe Warm Up 2012
1st GP Guyader 2012

Embarks on 2nd VG, November 2012

The Grand Prix Guyader is held in the Brenton seaport town of Douarnenez from Mid April to early May, it is a combined regatta for everything from MOD70’s, Maxi’s , IMOCA 60’s Class 40 to Dragons, mid sized sport boats to Stand Up Paddle boards, Kite sailing and stopping at Opti’s.…It is an absolutely  full blown regatta well underway while boats in the North East US are just getting the covers off…..

Oh, it is only a couple of weeks after Spi Ouest in La Trinite the 2013 edition of which, the 35th, will be held over the weekend of 28 March to 1 April, with usually about 500 boats, at 47.5 degrees north.

Vendee Globe-PRB & Vincent Riou

Third in the series on Vendee Globe Sponsors

Vincent Riou and PRB

As always information is from various Internet sources so: Caveat Emptor

From WikiPedia:

PRB is a home coatings business that is headquartered in the Vendee region of France. The core business is coatings siding, paint, tiles, masonry and related products. In 2006 their turnover was 110 Million Euros. 5% of their business is exported.

Their headquarters is, once again not far from Les Sable d’Olonne, (and Akenas Veranda) close to the main highway from the north east into Les Sable D’Lonne. I remember being told, or seeing a picture of an Imoca 60 as a bill board on top of their building. “PRB”  shows up on Google maps. And, no surprise, they are not far from Rue Tabarly and Rue Alain Colas. There is at least one other Rue Alain Colas in France- in Brest.

PRB has 14 outlets in France as well as a presence in the US, in New Jersey, via a company called Minerva Finishes who on their website refer to one of their (PRB) products as “Stucco”. This is a cut and paste from the Minerva Finishes company in NJ:

Minerva Finishes provides an amazing range of architectural plasters and finishes that reflect today’s lifestyles and tastes combined with old-fashioned service and attention to detail expertise that exceed your expectations.

I will go out on a limb and say that is basically what PRB represents in France.

PRB has been sponsoring sailing since 1992.

On their main website there is of course a direct link and pictures of Vincent and the boat.

With regards to their skipper, Vincent Riou, the basics: French, from Brittany, 40 years old, married with two kids, likes fishing when not sailing. So in essence a “normal” guy, not some wiled eyed hermit longing for the loneliness of life at sea, as I fear is so often the response of Americans when discussing sailing, racing, at high speed, around the world alone, non stop or otherwise…..Apparently though the  Brittany region, where most of the French solo sailors come from, and in particular the town of Port Le Foret, is known among the cognoscenti as the “Valley of the Madmen

Riou is apparently known in the community of sailors with whom he mingles as “Vincent the Terrible”, apparently for his competitiveness. A look at his background and his basic track record for sailing is well encapsulated in this interview with him in Yachtpals-Jan 2009

He is the only previous winner of the Vendee Globe participating on this edition.


Vendee Globe-Akena Vérandas & Skipper Arnaud Boissières

Second in my review of the companies that sponsor IMOCA 60’s in the Vendee Globe

Akena Vérandas & Skipper Arnaud Boissières

Once again this Info gathered is gathered from the Internet so Caveat Emptor

Akena Vérandas is a manufacturer of Verandas…
They are headquartered in the Vendee Region of France-half way down the eastern end of the Bay of Biscay. In fact Google map shows them about 20 miles inland from Les Sable D’lonne and apparently about a block from Rue Eric Tabarly. Yes Toto, the French DO take their sailing heroes seriously. The basin in St. Malo where the boats are gathered for the start of the Route du Rhumb is named for Paul Vatine a Norman lost at sea in the Transat Jacques Vabre in1999.
A brief news bite about A.V posted the site of the Lyon Economic Development site reads as follows. (I think Aderly is the district in which Lyon is sited).
“Convinced of the importance of developing its team spirit around a non work-related event, Akena Vérandas has decided to sponsor Arnaud Boissières who is competing in the Vendée Globe 2008-2009 (my highlight) boat race, bearing the colors of company. The race began on November 9th.
The company began sponsoring skippers of the Vendée Globe back in 2004-2005. Akena Vérandas is the leading manufacturer of verandas in France, with about 80,000 installations a year and 60 million Euros in sales in 2007. The company is continuing its development strategy with the opening of 10 new shops a year through 2010. To meet its needs for expansion, Akena took advantage of Aderly’s assistance to set up a branch to open soon in the Lyon area, in the town of Saint-Priest. Established in 1981, the company is now present all over France.”
Other more recent information I have found says that they have 100,000 installations, have 75 sales offices all over the country with 8 technical centers and have 650 employees.
They further say on their various links that they sponsored their first entry for the Vendee 2004 with Raphaël Dinelli as skipper and although Dinelli did not finish, or count as a finisher, Akena re-up’d, as noted above, again in 2008 this time with Arnaud Boissières as Skipper. Boissières had finished 7th in the Transat, formerly the O.S.T.A.R., earlier in 2008 aboard A.V.
Not only does A.V. sponsor sailing but several other sports too including Soccer, Basketball, Tennis, Cycling and a kind of athletic team (may be race walking) set up as a charity the proceeds of which go to children who are ill.
Arnaud appears to like the number 7. Not only was this his finish place in The Artemis Transat 2008 but also in the 2008/9 Vendee Globe, The Transat Jacques Vabre later in 2009 with Vincent Riou and his finish in the Route du Rhumb in 2010.
So what is interesting here is you have a company with sales of 60 million Euros (OK 5 years ago and the 2008 economic black hole not withstanding) investing, what might be a good chunk of their advertising budget, in a long distance ocean race. Not just once but their sponsorship is on going, even after on their first outing when the boat did not even rank as a finisher. They must have gotten what  they wanted from it because they signed up again in 2008/9 and now again in 2012 AND their guys have not won anything-Yet-The boat they bought is the old PRB, winner in 2008/9.
And these guys build verandas. It is not like they sell a “gotta have”consumer product in demand around the world–or something with deeper pockets, like a bank or insurance company (I’ll get to them-I am going by skipper’s second name alphabetically) AND they keep doing it….

There is hope yet for US solo sailing I reckon.

Vendee Globe Sponsors: Maitre CoQ

Many of the sponsored boats in the Vendee globe are names familiar to anyone who is interested in sailing, especially at this level-But what about the new comers? I spent a little time trying to find out.

Jeremie Beyou and Maitre CoQ

Jeremie Beyou is sailing under the colors of French food retailer Maitre CoQ which is a division of a larger food business called LDC.  They, LDC, are, listed on the Paris Bourse and as best as I can tell did something like 640 million Euros last year. LDC operates all over France in several sectors-Prepared food-Frozen food-Chicken, Turkey Rabbit, Pork, Pizza, Pre-made sandwiches. LDC is active in Spain and now Poland also.

On the actual Maitre CoQ website, as opposed to the LDC site, there is a definite promotion of the entry in the Vendee Globe with a link to a dedicated Matire CoQ/Vendee Globe page. This link is a mini VG site in itself, with daily updates, videos, comments from Jeremie at sea and so on. All this is on the left side of the site: and on the right….? Yup, ads of products sold by Maitre CoQ. The ads are smallish, say 2” x 2” and in a slide show on about an 8 second cycle. There is also have a radio controlled model yacht in the livery of the IMOCA 60 that you can either buy or enter some contest to win (My French fails here). You can sign up for regular updates-Thus having potential email ad prospects coming to you and not the other way around…. There is a section with their partners, LDC, (the parent company)  Musto, a TV station, A radio station, a sports website-Think ESPN on line except that there is a sailing page, an on line “newspaper” and a computer company called Intempora whose mission seems to be doing taking information on active “things” cars, boats people and seeing how the actions can be made to be more effective.

I find it interesting that if LDC/Maitre CoQ spends say (a number I have heard floating in the ether…) 20 million Euros on a 4 year program-5 mil Euros a year-as part of a 650 Million Euro conglomerate they must think there is a viable return on the 20 mil. Admittedly they brought a second hand boat, but it was Foncia, organized and sailed by Micheal  Desjoyeaux, one of the masters in the solo ocean racing game, and the fact that they have entered sailing sponsorship at a pretty high level, financially, technically and complexity as their first outing and in this economic climate must make one wonder what they know that US companies do not.

Next up, Arnaud Boissieres aboard Akena Verandas

Vendee Globe—Why Francois Gabart?

Since the Vendee Globe started, 5 days ago, one young skipper has led virtually the whole race, putting some of the best IMOCA skippers in the world in his wake which frankly is saying something. To paraphrase Butch and Sundance—Who is this guy?

More to the point how did a 29 year old get to be at the helm of a brand new IMOCA 60 Sponsored by a major publically traded (on the Paris Bourse) insurance company?

Turns out he pretty much earned the spot. I have found no evidence at all of nepotism.

The following info is all garnered from the Internet, so “Caveat Emptor”

Francois Gabart is of course French. He sailed with his parents as a 7 year old on a circle cruise of the Atlantic so starting in at least 1990, this fellow has been around the water.

By 1997 he was skilled enough to win the French Optimist Championship. Two years later, now 16, He also won the French Moth Championships and came 4th in the Junior European Championships for the Moth, in 2000. All pretty impressive in itself I reckon.

Between 2001 and 2005 his various on line CV’s cite him as “Olympic Tornado Preparation” and winning the Tornado Junior Worlds in 2003 in the process. Certainly sailing a Tornado is excellent practice for sailing an IMOCA 60. By 2006 he had gotten into the Figaro 2 and finished second in the Cap Istanbul race, one of the major events in the Figaro solo series. The Cap Istanbul sails from Toulon to Turkey with several stops: the race is almost as long as the Figaro itself. In 2006, or 7, he was second. He won it in 2010. In the same 2006/7 time he won the Student class in the Tour De France a la Voile. This is a crewed race in the Archambault 34.

Come 2008 he was sailing as the skipper of the Figaro 2 Espoire Region Bretagne, the Brittany Region of France. This is a common proposition among the French maritime districts. It is as though say Rhode Island & Massachusetts had joined forces to promote the region. Years ago I interviewed the late  Paul Vatiene, then skipper of an ORMA 60 foot tri, in New York to set up for a shot at the solo Transat record. His boat was the same idea-Regional promotional except his was promoting the region of Normandy.

This was also when  Gabart won Rookie of the Year in The Figaro that serious training ground for Soloistas.
And somewhere in there he managed to get an engineering degree.

In 2009, it gets really interesting.

In this year he won the “Skipper Macif Selection, for 2010-meaning I imagine that he was to join the Macif Sailing Team for the 2010 season-Goodbye Espoire Region Bretagne. On the Macif Vendee Globe website for Sponsors, there is a very professionally done website covering everything the Macif company is doing in sailing, including sponsoring the IMOCA 60, and two new skippers for the Figaro team-As far as I can read in my limited French.

So in ’09, he joins Macif, is third in a Transatlantic Race from Brittany to Guadeloupe in the Figaro2, singlehanded. He is out of first by about an hour,  two minutes, fifteen seconds…After 3,400 miles or so. The first and second skippers are 4 minutes apart-The winner is 40 year old Gildas Morvan a fixture on the Figaro circuit for FOURTEEN years, with a record including a second and 3 thirds in The Figaro. Second is Erwan Tabarly  (8 years on the Figaro Circuit) & Gabart is third.

He is 23 years old.

Later he wins the French Solo Offshore Racing Championship sailed in the Figaro 2’s….. Wha? Think about this for a minute- he beats out, over a 10 or so race series, over the summer, some of the best names in one design and solo offshore racing, in the world. No wonder Macif hired him. This is in itself an interesting change of events. Used to be solo skippers would go around with their pitch looking for sponsors-I know I have done it. Think also of Mike Plant, Hal Roth, Phil Steggall, Bruce Schwab, Rich Wilson and so on. In France companies are now looking for talent, so successful is sailing as a medium for getting one’s company recognized

Towards the end of 2009, he gets a third with Kito de Pavant, another luminary from the Figaro world in the Transat Jacques Vabre.

In case you thought this was the boost he needed, it was not.

The gist of a quote from Francois, on the Barcelona World Race site for 2010 says “When I learnt Michel Desjoyeaux was building a new boat for the Route du Rhumb then the Barcelona World Race, I sent him a message right after his press conference in Paris making the announcement—“I’m up for it” He did not learn of his new job until May 18th. But Desjoyeaux reports in the same quote that “opting for Francis was practically a done deal in my head in February but I was focused on the boat building and did not want to be distracted”.

Desjoyeaux goes on to say-“I discussed it with Christian Le Pap, the coach at Port-La-Foret and we concluded it was the right choice.” This was an interesting insight too.

Christian Le Pape is the head guy at something called “Pole Finistere, Center of Excellence in the Nation” in essence a training center for French solo sailors. It’s Mission, in my poor French is the training at a high level for sailors in the IMOCA and Figaro class for ocean racing. It appears to be supported by the FFV, and the regions of Brittany and Finisterre, the Town of Port La Foret & the French Ministry of Sport, amongst others.

So our hero is hired onto the Macif program sailing in the Figaro Class up to 2011 with a side gig of a lap around the planet on a new Foncia, Desjoyeaux’s long time sponsor with The Professor as Desjoyeaux is called. Despite this being like learning computers from Bill Gates or Politics from Bill Clinton, Desjoyeaux  says he was impressed by Gabart’s” mindset, different view of things, and being younger, of a different culture. I want Francois to exercise his opinion and free will”, says Desjoyeaux. “Yes men are no good”.

Unfortunately for both Gabart and The Professor, they did not get too far in the Barcelona World race. The mast broke near Cape Town to which they were able to sail with what was left of the spar.

So, Francois Gabart is one very promising young sailor and one cannot but wonder what might happen if he was at the help of an AC 72…..?

And this just in at 1835 EST Thursday  Armel Le Cleac’h has pulled to within striking distance of the “golden Boy” as the VG press site calls him now. Still 5 days into a 90 day race…..

And another OOP’s: -Sam Davies, the sole woman and 1/3rd of the GBR contingent has apparently dropped her rig near Maderia. She is well and the boat is afloat. More to follow.