Putting together all of the building blocks which form a successful Vendée Globe project is a seemingly endless task. Over the next few weeks we will look at some of the key people who perform vital roles behind the scenes and how they came to be the catalysts which made the projects work.
Take Isabelle Joschke and Benjamin Dutreux who went from dream to start line by taking different routes and accompanied by different supporters. In the case of Joschke she had past race winner Alain Gautier in her corner whilst the Dutreux campaign had family and friends as the cornerstones.
Franco-German Joschke, the MACSF sailor and the Vendée region’s OMIA - Water Family skipper Dutreux recall some of the early meetings which proved to be a vital catalyst
Alain Gautier, project manager
"It's not easy to say when the project actually started," says Isabelle Joschke. “The first time I thought about it was when people from the offshore racing industry, who potentially had partners up their sleeves came up with the idea. That was a way back when I had just finished my first Mini. -Transat, in 2005. Previously, I hadn't even really thought about it. I was just wondering if I was going to do the Mini again. This proposal sowed the first tiny seed, but it was too early for me: I had to build my career experience first ".
For Joschke the pathway to the start was paved with big intentions, great meetings with project activators but also with a fair share of disappointments. Approached by Luc Talbourdet, then boss of Absolute Dreamer, Jean-Pierre Dick's offshore racing team, the dream of racing the Vendée Globe 2012 was ignited. But despite all their joint efforts it did not succeed. "I parked the idea and continued back with the Figaro circuit," says the sailor. “I tried more on my own for 2016 by creating Horizon Mixité, to promote diversity and give my project a clear identity. From 2011 to 2013, I had a bit of a difficult spell in terms of sponsorship. But then I met Generali, who supported be on the Figaro for the next two seasons. I was very happy. And, when really I was not asking for any more than what I had when Alain Gautier (1992-93 Vendée Globe winner who runs Sensation Ocean and promoter-manager of sailing projects, editor's note) and Generali together offered me the Vendée Globe 2020 ".
Joschke did not race in Generali colours in 2020-2021. The general management of Generali changed and so did their sponsorship projects. But on the recommendation of Eric Lombard, the former Managing Director of Generali, Joschke and Gautier contacted MACSF at the start of 2018. In the meantime Joschke raced in the colours of Monin a client of Gautier’s who coached Olivier Monin on the water. At the end of 2018 they have a second meeting with MACSF.
"With Alain, we presented ourselves to MACSF as we are not promising the moon and stars. That is not our way of being. Honestly I had already pretty much turned the page. But on their part, during those long months, MACSF had given careful thought to the project and to the identity that the company wanted to give to the adventure. Alain had really worked it all out well ”.
For Benjamin Dutreux, the Vendée Globe was "probably a long held dream that I grew up with but I always kind of thought it was a bit too inaccessible for me. The idea solidified after my fourth Solitaire du Figaro, it was then that I felt credible. I then asked the big question to my brother (Marcel-Junior, president of Eole Performance, the boatyard of the Dutreux brothers, editor's note), and to Alice (Potiron, communications and sponsorship project coordinator, editor's note)
'Me and the Vendée Globe is it a weird idea or not? '”
Benjamin Dutreux's course to the Vendée Globe was swift
As soon as his brother and long time friend Potiron had embraced the idea of the project, they got straight down to looking for partners.
“We wondered who we should partner with and we started by talking to my sponsors from the Figaro just keeping them informed and to take advantage of their advice. We already knew that they might not be our main partners for the Vendée Globe. But they encouraged us, made sure we were pitching the right ideas and messages and offered contacts. We continued with the production of proposals and fine tuning our positioning and strategy. For me that meant stopping my sailing career: when you're looking for big sponsors, you don't have time to race the Solitaire. We quickly noticed that to be taken seriously we needed to have a boat. I contacted Kojiro Shiraishi, who was selling his ".
Surrounded by a small team of three to four multiskilled hard-core individuals, “Operation Dutreux” took shape and in this case the skipper was the jack of all trades. “Like any entrepreneur, we have to look after everything: technical stuff, communication, finding partners, boatwork. It’s a real tough business getting started whilst at the same time you are the face, the figurehead of the project as well as being the real day to day manager. Dutreux remembers the "entrepreneurial stress" from this period, the real financial stress of risk-taking (buying the boat as much as the risk leading the the team). "I like adrenaline, but living that kind of tension every day is not easy."
His first main partner suddenly withdrew because of the first stage of the health crisis but Dutreux found Omia as a new sponsor. His project for the Vendée Globe mobilized between thirty and forty people, between the yard, relatives, supporters who lend a hand and suppliers.
Episode 2: The CEO Who Has the Final Say
Episode 3: Team Manager, what a job
Episode 4: Business Provider
Episode 5: The banker, only money talks