Around the world in about 80 days, alone aboard an 18m boat, without stopovers or assistance… The Vendée Globe, the most legendary of sailing races, is a passion. And resists everything. Including the Covid-19 wave. Certainly, with the re-containment, the pontoons have emptied. But the start of the 9th edition will take place this Sunday. Against all odds. “We did everything for that! »Insists Yannick Moreau, the mayor of Sables-d’Olonne, city of departure and arrival of the adventure. From the start of the summer, the sanitary measures were strict. “Because we had to hold out until November,” continues the city councilor.
And for good reason. The Vendée Globe is a real boon for its city and for the entire department. “10% additional overnight stays during the following two years for the Vendée”, calculates Yannick Moreau. The figures from the last edition are edifying: 35 million euros in economic benefits, 15 million euros in image benefits, while the department is investing, over four years, 4.3 million euros and Les Sables- d’Olonne 1.5 million euros (out of a total budget of 16 million euros).
“No department has such a gem in its hands,” enthuses the president of the departmental council, Yves Auvinet. Like the Puy du Fou, the Vendée Globe has achieved national and international notoriety. It is today a monument. “In financial danger, the monument almost disappeared in 2003.
To “save the heritage”, the former Secretary of State for Culture Philippe de Villiers then opted for the creation of a mixed economy limited company (SAEM) and made phone calls to the bosses of the 30 largest. Vendée companies. From Sodebo to Beneteau via Gautier, la Mie Câline, the dairy of Montaigu, Gougnaud, PRB or Fleury Michon, all said banco and collectively hold 15% of the capital (the rest is shared between the department, the region and the city ).
“There was no question of seeing the Vendée Globe disappear,” remembers Patricia Brochard, one of Sodebo’s three co-managers. Vendée companies have played solidarity. “The Vendée is a department of entrepreneurs, with a strong spirit of commitment, perhaps linked to its history and to the Chouans who had to take charge in order to defend themselves”, continues Patricia Brochard. “Some of these entrepreneurs started from nothing and found themselves in the spirit of the Vendée Globe, in these skippers who, like them, are building an adventure”, still believes Yves Auvinet.
In Saint-Georges-de-Montaigu, at the headquarters of the Sodebo company, created in 1973, priority is given to Gaston, the automatic pig-shaped shuttle that transports the pizza pallets to the shipping platform, and we have been talking about sailing for over twenty years. Since Joseph Bougro – the father of Patricia Brochard, the one who transformed a small charcuterie into a giant in the food industry – fell in love with Thomas Coville, 6th in the Vendée Globe in 2001.
VIDEO. Vendée Globe: how sailors organize their lives on board
“At the time, there was product recognition, but a brand deficit, remembers Patricia Brochard. The Vendée Globe was a way to gain notoriety. “Twenty years ago, 8% of people questioned knew the Sodebo brand, they are 96% today. “We have taken a step forward, with values around proximity, authenticity and emotion,” points out the boss. At Sodebo, events, private or internal to the company, are shared “as a family”.
The Vendée Globe contributes to the atmosphere. “It creates pride, we take part in an incredible race, an exceptional adventure. The boat “Sodebo” joined the Ultime class – the current elite of ocean racing with 32-meter maxi-trimarans – but the company remains the main sponsor of the Vendée Globe. “Because we are attached to it, because it has become a common good that we have seen grow and that we must continue to support, even during the crisis,” said Patricia Brochard.
Sodebo invests 4 million euros every four years (for spinoffs estimated at 20 million euros in advertising purchase equivalent) to appear in particular on the 33 boats entered. At no time did the company claim to become a title sponsor. “You have to respect history,” smiles Patricia Brochard. This race must keep its authenticity, it must not be distorted. As a sponsor, we are above all there to serve it, not just to use it. “
This Vendée Globe, during which the sailors recount the joys and sorrows they experience on board, takes the guts out. Jean-Jacques Laurent, boss of PRB, the company specializing in building coatings based in La Mothe-Achard, near Les Sables, knows a thing or two about it. The orange monohull, winner of the 2001 (with Michel Desjoyeaux) and 2005 (with Vincent Riou) editions, will be at the start for the eighth time.
“The first time, in 1992, we said banco to Jean-Yves Hasselin who was trying to make ends meet eight days before departure,” recalls Jean-Jacques Laurent. The man with the suspenders, whose company also has shares in SAEM, has never regretted it. “It’s an extraordinary chance to have such an event close to home, we are a Vendée company, if we want to communicate, we have to be part of it! “
PRB (for Building Coating Products), created in the 1960s by the father of Jean-Jacques Laurent, a mason by training, has grown by 15% annually and estimates that 5% are due to “the veil phenomenon”.
Until four years ago, the position of the boats on the pontoon was in order of arrival of the inscriptions. “From the first day, even before the opening of the offices, my secretary went to La Roche-sur-Yon”, slips mischievously Jean-Jacques Laurent. With the race start village opening three weeks before the start and seeing tens of thousands of visitors scroll by, PRB ensured excellent visibility. “We couldn’t miss the television cameras,” the friendly boss smiles again.
From now on, the positions are determined by lot, but Jean-Jacques Laurent continues to be omnipresent. “It’s true that I get involved in everything on the boat. It is not only that of the company, it belongs to all employees, who experience the Vendée Globe together. There is no question of the project becoming the boss’s dancer, so no question of building one of these new foiling Imoca, the budget must remain reasonable. “
At Maître CoQ, another Vendée company, we have bet on technology, without excess. “Because this sailing project must remain in the communication budget of the company”, specifies Christophe Guyony, the managing director. In the early 2000s, the Arrivé family, founder of the poultry shop, also responded to Philippe de Villiers’ call to put money in the pot and save the Vendée Globe.
Bought in 2009 by the LDC group, she opted for a return to the fleet three years later and has since gained fourteen points of notoriety. “This year, through the race, we want to talk to the Vendeans, with the objective of recruiting and developing jobs in a competitive sector,” continues Christophe Guyony.
Arnaud Boissières, he will probably not win the Vendée Globe aboard a previous generation Imoca. But once again, “Cali” – engaged in his 4th round the world tour in a row (he completed the first three) – will be one of the favorites of the public. Her Imoca “the cuddly Mie” remains moored year round on the pontoons of Sabla. Originally from Arcachon, he moved to Vendée in 2008 at the request of Akena Vérandas, his sponsor at the time. “From a communication point of view, Akena’s boss thought it was better,” remembers Arnaud Boissières.
Since then, the skipper has been adopted by the Sablais, in particular by the former fishermen of La Chaume with whom he never fails to exchange views. La Mie Câline, another Vendée company, has, for the past seven years, taken over from the verandas company and Arnaud Boissières continues to display a project with almost exclusively sponsors from the department. Large ones such as the bread and pastry chain or Artipôle artisans and around thirty smaller ones, such as Leclerc and its shopping arcade, Challans poultry or Team Plastique.
“I take all of Vendée with me to go around the world, so obviously each start and each finish are full of emotion for me,” notes Boissières. No way for him to stop the ocean race. “As soon as I get home, I go looking for partners”, he promises. The Vendée Globe still has many good years ahead of it. And let it be said: “We share it with everyone, but it is not for sale! »Insists Yves Auvinet, the president of a department which is preparing to cross the oceans.
Article original de: www.leparisien.fr