Sunday, 20 April 2014

Lorient Grand Large, Part Two : Volvo Ocean Race Stopovers (1/2)

From an interview with Christophe Baudry in 2013 and the announcement of the Lorient stopover for the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race in Lorient, July 2013

Volvo Ocean Race boats at the Lorient stopover in 2012. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race/Ian Roman

by Anne Hinton

Lorient Grand Large was set up to organize the centre for offshore racing that is based in Lorient. It was set up for nautical creativity in Lorient by Lorient Agglomeration Partners and others in the surrounding community, to support everyone who wants to base their sailing project and related activities in Lorient. It is run by Christophe Baudry and his team from offices near the Base des Sous-Marins, main sailing team bases, and BSM marina, in Lorient.
This means that Lorient Grand Large helps the 80 skippers who train from Lorient on a daily basis, but also develops the nautical side of Lorient; i.e. Lorient Grand Large acts to organize everything directly in relationship with local businesses and the community and, side by side with that, to encourage events and international sailing projects to be based in Lorient. At the same time, Lorient Grand Large was set up to coordinate the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Lorient.
Knut Frostad (Volvo Ocean Race CEO) and Norbert Métairie (President of Lorient Agglomeration and Mayor of Lorient) sign the agreement for two Volvo Ocean Race stopovers in Lorient in 
March 2010. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race

In March 2010, Lorient signed an agreement with the Volvo Ocean Race for two stopovers in the town for both the 2010-11 and 2014-15 races. “I wasn’t directly involved with bringing the Volvo Ocean Race to Lorient, but the people in Lorient asked me if it would be interesting to have the Volvo Ocean Race here and I said ‘Yes, that is interesting. If you go there you should not sign up for just one edition, because if you do that you will have put in a lot of work to ensure that the Volvo Ocean Race returns to France, and after that they can choose again between La Rochelle, Le Havre, our town or I don’t know where for the next edition, so you will have put in a lot of time and energy for repeating something and you won’t get the rewards and benefits, so it is not my advice that you sign for a one-off event’, so that is how it happened,” said Christophe Baudry. “They [the Volvo Ocean Race] found that the French market was very important for the identity of Volvo – the cars and the trucks – and so after that they said, ‘Yes, we will return to France’.” The Volvo Ocean Race had not been to France since La Rochelle in 2002 prior to this.
The 2011 Lorient stopover cost 3.2 million Euros, financed from public funds, private partners and commercialization in the village (hospitalities, exhibitions, food and beverage, etc). The economic impact of the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in 2011 was 22.6 million Euros. There were 250,000 visitors including 7,500 school children, and 12,500 corporate guests, with 3,000 corporate guests attending on the water racing (in-port and departure of the last leg from Lorient to Galway), and 7,500 people sailed on the mini-VOR boats [actually boats from the Tour de France à la Voile]. There were 2,500 people involved in hosting the stopover over the seventeen days, with a large proportion of these being volunteers. Lorient Grand Large has just four employees.
Volvo Ocean Race off Lorient in 2012. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race/P.Guiguenot

The Volvo Ocean Race is important for Lorient as it strongly develops the local actors in sailing, and strongly develops the Base des Sous-Marins. There are important annual benefits, including development of a brotherhood, tourism and international development. “Lorient is to sailing what Barcelona is to football”, commented the President of Lorient Agglomeration and Mayor of Lorient, Norbert Métairie, recently. “The Volvo Ocean Race stopover helps Lorient to gain in notoriety, provides internationalism for businesses and develops the region, providing an indispensable notoriety. There are direct benefits and also indirect longer term ones. Above all, the Volvo Ocean Race provides Lorient with external visibility,” said Norbert Métairie.
Franck Cammas' Groupama, form the BSM in Lorient, team won both the leg into Lorient and the Volvo Ocean Race in 2012. Here they are on stage near the Cite de la Voile. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race/Paul Todd

On behalf of the local hoteliers, Bertrand Hesnard commented that having the Volvo Ocean Race in Lorient in 2012 made it like having the major InterCeltique [music] Festival twice in the year. Jean-Baptiste Plassart, representative of professionals in the nautical industry, commented that the Volvo Ocean Race in Lorient is very international, and not many events are that international.
Crowds in Lorient at the 2012 Volvo Ocean Race stopover. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race/Ian Roman
Bruno Dubois, on behalf of North Sails, commented that they had made developments with Groupama for the last Volvo Ocean Race, and things had become very complex very quickly in discussions with Franck Cammas. They are at the leading edge of design and all the sails for the next Volvo Ocean Race, for the new VO65 boat, are being made at the loft in Vannes. In addition, they now do the sails for the MOD70 class, which is an international one design 70 foot trimaran, developed for ocean racing and Grand Prix events.
Lorient 2012 Volvo Ocean Race stopover. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race/P.Guiguenot

The one design aspect of the next Volvo Ocean Race will not change anything for the public. Subsequent to the last stopover, Multiplast, locally, is building part of the new VO65 boat – so they already have an order of eight of these, with eight new boats being built for the next race, and are currently [as of July 2013] building number 4
In the case of 727 Sailbags, they received the sails from Camper ETNZ, Telefonica and Puma from the last Volvo Ocean Race and turned these into obtaining international press. The contacts and contracts established are continuing in the long-term and 727 Sailbags will have distributors across the globe soon. Azimut was not present in the offshore market until the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Lorient, They provide internet and other solutions for boats. Now they are in the markets of the MOD70, Mini Class, Class 40, IMOCA, etc, and can work on promoting their brand.

Patrouille de France over Groupama off Lorient during the Volvo Ocean Race 2012. Image copyright Patrouille de France

Beyond this,” commented Christophe Baudry, “there was an additional impact of Groupama Sailing Team, based at Lorient for two years for preparation, and that is 15 million Euros, and then an impact on the region from building new things due to the Volvo Ocean Race, such as North Sails building a loft in Vannes. This impact is worth a further 15 to 16 million Euros. Those were the identified benefits. There are others, for example, our partners who come up with internet solutions, who sold good interactive software, so there are a number of benefits, as also in the spirit of the Anglo-Saxons who came to Lorient for the Volvo Ocean Race. Like the City of Sails in Auckland, we have the Cité de la Voile in Lorient.
I have worked for the Vendée Globe, and I was responsible for communication for the 2008-9 edition. For all races, one makes benchmarks and one can see what works, etc. This may be a bit pretentious, but for the public I have never seen a sailing event that is also as good for the public as was the Lorient stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race. For example, I don’t know another sailing event that gets 7,500 people sailing on the water. We made the Cité de la Voile completely free for the public. The Vendée Globe does a great deal and also has things free for the public, but we are further on from that. I don’t know an event where one is open to the public for such a long time – 17 days! That is very long and very expensive, from cleaning to events,” said Christophe Baudry.
Smaller boats with the same sponsorship paintwork as those competing in the Volvo Ocean Race were used to get spectators afloat at the 2012 Lorient stopover. Image copyright Yvan Zedda.

The next time the stopover is much shorter (9-10 days, not 17) and is much more packed with things to do. “The format of the village will change as there are new options to put in place. The aim, however, is still the same – to do something that is popular and attracts, and is organized for, the public. Last time we had 7,500 people sailing on the water on the mini VOR boats (30 foot boats which have the same colours as the Volvo Ocean Race). We want to do this sort of thing again, as we believe that if we do as much as possible for the public, this will be beneficial and also for the Cité de la Voile,” said Christophe Baudry.
Last time we had 1,900 sponsors or partners and we had 1,700 of these businesses involved in the stopover, to develop all that we could in terms of the hospitality, for the businesses and their clients, in the best possible conditions, because there are plenty of options to take up the experience of the Volvo Ocean Race, while there are no parameters by which to measure the Volvo Ocean Race experience and getting something back from the race. Now, we are looking at what worked the last time and what worked well and from that we will learn from our errors and improve for next time,” explained Baudry.
To be continued...