Mark Lloyd / MOD SA

Au revoir Foncia

Michel Desjoyeaux in the hunt for new MOD70 sponsor

Wednesday October 10th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

Times are not good for sponsorship of sailing in France at present. Earlier this year we saw one of the biggest companies involved, Veolia Environnement, withdrawing their backing of Roland Jourdain’s MOD70 campaign. While reports back in January of Groupama pulling the plug on their sailing sponsorship are untrue (according to Franck Cammas), it seems likely that they will at best be scaling down their investment in sailing. Now another major supporter of French offshore sailing, has bitten the dust with Foncia, the French residential property management and real estate services group, backing out.

Foncia has been involved in sailing sponsorship at a high level since 1999 when they backed Laurent and Yvan Bourgnon’s ORMA 60 in the 1999 Transat Jacques Vabre. The company then transferred allegiance to 1992-3 Vendee Globe winner Alain Gautier who campaigned both an ORMA 60 and a Figaro in their colours, until passing over the helm briefly to Armel le Cleac’h for the 2006 Route du Rhum. Since 2007 their skipper has been Michel Desjoyeaux and the offshore racing legend took them to victory in the 2008 Vendee Globe. Alongside this the sailing team campaigned a D35 catamaran skippered Alain Gautier or Desjoyeaux on Lake Geneva and most recently Foncia has backed Desjoyeaux’s MOD70, the recent winner of the one design trimaran class’ European Tour.

But the end of the one design trimaran’s race around the European coastline – which Desjoyeaux and his team won – also marked the end of Foncia’s 13 year long sponsorship of sailing.

Foncia was set up in 1972 by French businessman Jacky Lorenzetti, best known in sports circles for being the major shareholder in the Paris-based Racing Metro rugby club. The company which operates principally in France but also in Germany, Switzerland and Belgium, was sold by Lorenzetti to Banque Populaire (another familiar sponsor of sailing) in 2007. Banque Populaire itself reformed itself as BPCE in 2009 following the merger between it and another leading French bank Caisse d'épargne. The sponsorship survived this, however last year BPCE in turn sold Foncia to two investment companies Eurazeo and Bridgepoint. Eurazeo is the majority shareholder in Europcar and APCOA (think Triangle car park operator for the Southampton Red Jet), while London-based Bridgepoint owns substantial chunks of Pret a Manger, Virgin Active, Fat Face, Alain Afflelou (opticians and one time sponsor of La Solitaire du Figaro), etc. The new owners wished to terminate their sailing sponsorship, which had been due to wind up in 2014.

As Michel Desjoyeaux puts it: “They decided to change their way of marketing and advertising, so they told me that they wanted to stop sailing sponsorship. So we are working to find some others partners today and we are funded so that we can reach this new target.”

One hopes that Desjoyeaux, as the most successful shorthanded offshore racing skipper of all time - with wins in two Vendee Globe, the Route du Rhum and the Transat/OSTAR to his name - will find sponsorship soon, otherwise there is precious little hope for others.

So how confident is Desjoyeaux of finding a replacement sponsor? “I see the glass middle full instead of middle empty. But sponsorship has always been hard to find. I think we have a good opportunity with this boat and with this series and with me, that is why I see the glass middle- full. But until the contract is signed and the money is in the bank, you don’t know.”

Following in the tradition of the great Eric Tabarly, Desjoyeaux is a renowned innovator and one suspects his ideal would be competing in a box rule class such as the ORMA 60 class. However he has also been successful in one designs, having won this year’s MOD70 European Tour as well as being part of the French solo sailing ‘super elite’, alongside Jean le Cam and Philippe Poupon, in being a three time Solitaire du Figaro winner.

Ideally he would like to find a new sponsor to take over from Foncia with the MOD70. The standard in the fleet has been constantly improving over this first full season of racing, Desjoyeaux observes: “We had good races but we had bad races also with Foncia, but everyone was making mistakes - even if we made a lot we still won overall.”

Mostly the racing throughout the European Tour proved deliciously close. “In Dublin the five boats arrived in less than one hour and the two first boats within 31 seconds and first three boats in less than five minutes, so it was really close,” says Desjoyeaux. “From Cascais to Marseille the opposite was true and there were big gaps because there was light weather and there was a good opportunity for Oman Sail to get ahead and to extend at the front. But it is sometimes like this in sailing – the rich become richer and the poor become poorer. That is the game.”

In terms of the city races during the European Tour, the same was true. Foncia won with a race to spare in Kiel while in contrast in Dublin there were three boats on equal points for the lead after six races and the winner had to be decided in the speed match. Then in Cascais, where Musandam-Oman Sail started to find her feet, Foncia finished last. “So you can see from that that everyone can win. There are always opportunities for people to have good races.”

Desjoyeaux confirms Sidney Gavignet’s view of how the teams have developed over this season. Earlier in the year the Seb Josse-skippered Groupe Edmond de Rothschild was proving to be the fastest in training, but now it seems that Spindrift Racing and Foncia are the boats to beat.

“I think we have learned a lot,” Desjoyeaux concludes. “We have improved a lot about using the daggerboards, in and out, trimming sails and also helming the boat. Sometimes we were much slower than Gitana and now we are at least as fast as they are or faster and we are fighting with Spindrift most of the time. But the boats are very close to each other so it is a big fight and you always have to work hard.” 

So fingers and toes crossed for Desjoyeaux that he can find another wise company to support him.




Latest Comments

  • kate laven 23/10/2012 - 15:44

    I hope so too....can you imagine the sport without the great Desjoyeaux??

    Add a comment - Members log in

    Latest news!

    Back to top
      Back to top