Imoca Thomas Ruyant

Alexandre Fayeulle: « The TR Racing project is my raison d’être »

Busy news this week for TR Racing, which on Wednesday announced the change of name for Thomas Ruyant‘s and Sam Goodchild‘s Imoca boats, both renamed Vulnerable, before inaugurating its new premises at Lorient La Base on Thursday. All good reasons to talk to Alexandre Fayeulle, Chairman of Advens, founding partner of TR Racing and owner of the two boats. 

► Why this change of name?
Up until now, we’ve been supporting people working to tackle the consequences of vulnerability. We’ll continue to do that, but now Advens, which has officially become a company with a mission, wants to tackle the causes of environmental and social crises. We have therefore decided to bring together For People and For The Planet under the same banner of vulnerability, which is the shared condition of mankind and the planet. We don’t have the societal battle on one side and the environmental battle on the other, it’s one and the same battle which aims to give a real place to the most vulnerable among us in order to humanise society. Today, vulnerability is seen as a weakness, we are in denial and hiding, but this is what leads to exclusion, we want to change the way we look at this issue.

► How will this fight take shape?
We’re going to deploy a whole arsenal of activities and communications to ensure that people in vulnerable situations are not excluded but that we work with them and capitalise on the resources they can develop. So we’re launching a major long-term campaign. It starts with a virus that we’re inoculating with this announcement, which will slowly take hold in people’s minds, and whose spread we’ll accelerate in September and October, in the hope of a great, joyful and transforming pandemic during the Vendée Globe. The campaign will then go well beyond that.

► How have the TR Racing teams reacted to the name change?
Some people thought it was brilliant and thanked us for putting the subject of vulnerability at the heart of the project, finding it absolutely daring. After that, the word is initially shocking in a context where we are in a logic of performance, where we are more trying to hide our weaknesses. So having Vulnerable on the mainsail is clearly a challenge, but that’s the aim and it’s in line with what we did with LinkedOut. And what better way to get this message across than with skippers who are setting off solo around the world? They’re in a good position, and so are their teams, to know that they and their boat are vulnerable on the scale of a round-the-world race. They are working to ensure that this is the case as little as possible, but they are well aware that they are going to have to deal with problems if they are to complete the circumnavigation.


“Ocean racing must define its raison d’être”


► Leyton, which was a co-partner in the project, no longer features on the hulls of the boats. Are they still involved?
Discussions are underway with them to renew the partnership in 2024. Today, the project is completely open at all levels. We want to bring together people who want to lead the fight against vulnerability in a large coalition that is currently being put together. The same goes for the sports project, which is open to partners who want to join the two boats.

► You inaugurated TR Racing’s new premises in Lorient on Thursday, why this new building?
We needed an infrastructure to accommodate the two boats, the thirty or so employees and the ecosystem that revolves around TR Racing. A plot of land became available and our project was selected, so we now have a fantastic building to develop performance around Thomas and Sam’s projects, as well as a great tool dedicated to collaborative innovation, which should enable us to develop applications for the maritime world in general. It’s also a place for sharing and transmitting, with an events space for training courses and seminars. Both Thomas (Ruyant and Gavériaux, Managing Director of TR Racing) and I share the same credo, which is that we want to play an active part in shaping the future of ocean racing.

► In what way?
I think that ocean racing needs to define its raison d’être. We shouldn’t just look at how much it costs, in terms of money, CO2 emissions and so on, but more at what this development of resources and performance can be used for. This raison d’être must of course be thought out taking into account the limits of mankind and nature, but we must also take into account everything that it brings in terms of innovation, applications, emotions, awareness, education of the greatest number… I have very strong expectations of the Imoca class and more generally of ocean racing to better justify all the resources developed today.


“The spark caught and set me ablaze”


► TR Racing is now one of the biggest structures in ocean racing. Did you imagine that when you started out over seven years ago?
Not at all! The story of this project is a double encounter, with Thomas on his boat two months before the start of the Vendée Globe 2016, and with the race on the day of the start with the 350,000 spectators amassed along the channel. The spark ignited and I set about creating the TR Racing team with Thomas, building a first boat, then a second… It’s a superb story that has been crowned with sporting success with the Jaques Vabre 2021-Route du Rhum 2022-Jacques Vabre 2023 treble. Today, we’re clearly not in the same category as when we started, with two boats that are among the favourites for the next Vendée Globe.

► What does this sailing project bring to Advens? Can you measure the results?
As I said, the decision to set off was a decision of the heart. I set off without imagining or planning where it would all lead. As time went by, reason came into the picture and we actually used this support to develop Advens. Ocean racing is a great medium for promoting our business model, our values and our audacity. It boosts our economic, social and environmental performance, makes our teams proud, boosts our employer brand and gives us a lot of credit within our ecosystem, with our customers and partners. It’s also a fantastic technological showcase. I always say that ocean racing doesn’t cost anything because we get so much more out of it. Now, it’s impossible to put a figure on that. I can only say that between 2016 and 2024, Advens went from 100 to 500 employees and from a regional to a European reputation with a turnover of 80 million euros today. Obviously, the boats alone have not generated this growth, but they have contributed to it. And on a personal level, this TR Racing project serves my raison d’être. Twenty years ago, I decided to devote all my assets and professional activities to action for people and the planet, and these two boats are superb media for contributing to change.

► How much does a project like this cost?
It’s an annual budget of around €7 million, including depreciation of the premises and the boats

► What about the future? Would you be interested in the Ultim class, for example?
My commitment is very much linked to Thomas. If he tells me he wants to sail in the Ultim class, I’ll think about it, but right now, I’m not that interested. For me, the Imoca is the premier class. Over the past few years, the level has become higher and higher, the competition fiercer and fiercer, and the spectacle is grandiose! And the fact that there is now The Ocean Race is a decisive factor which changes the game, with a really attractive circuit, which goes beyond the national perimeter, and offers a mix of crewed, double-handed and solo racing. Today, I clearly want to do The Ocean Race, Europe (in 2025) then the world (2027/2028). It’s too early to talk about the Vendée Globe 2028.

► Will there be another new boat?
Advens 1 will be on sale after the Vendée Globe and an Advens 3 is being studied.

Photo: polaRYSE / Imoca

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