Banque Populaire announced on Thursday noon that they have been “forced to change skipper” for the next Vendée Globe thereby confirming the information revealed a few minutes earlier by Clarisse Crémer. Their decision, motivated by the Cremer having fallen behind in the race for qualifying miles due to her maternity plus the “inflexibility” of the organization of the Vendée Globe despite the sponsor’s requests has provoked a big reaction. Tip & Shaft tells you more.
“Banque Populaire have decided to leave me on the dock.” It was at midday on Thursday when Vendee Globe skipper Clarisse Crémer announced on her social networks that Team Banque Populaire had chosen to replace her for the Vendée Globe 2024. The reason? Her falling behind in the race for the miles for the selection of the next Vendée Globe. Just like for example Jean Le Cam, she has not yet aggregated qualifying miles to date, so that she does not appear in the table of the Imoca class.
This is largely explained by the sailor’s absence from the circuit in 2022 due to her maternity. “Today, Banque Populaire have decided that this represents a “risk” for them that they ultimately do not wish to run (…) I am in total incomprehension in the face of the story that this sponsor has chosen to tell today. Today: “The Vendée Globe, at all costs,” writes Clarisse Crémer, adding: “I’m in shock.” Crémer who finished 12th in the Vedée Globe on Feb 3rd 2021 was contacted several times but did not respond to our requests, not wishing to “add fuel to the fire.”
At this stage, it should be underlined that the selection via the ‘mile race’ is independent of the qualification itself and will only be used if more than 40 skippers are registered by October 2, 2023, the deadline to be officially a candidate for the Vendée Globe 2024. If this is the case, the number of miles covered in the races of the Imoca Globe Series 2021-2024 will decide between the candidates. The organization also reserves the possibility of granting a wild card if the number of 40 registered is exceeded.
Requests to the SAEM Vendée
Clarisse Crémer’s announcement immediately provoked an outcry against the sponsor, who had not been informed of her initiative, as Thierry Bouvard, director of sponsorship and patronage at BPCE, admits: “We have been talking to her for a long time, we would have liked that the story was told differently by both sides.” Banque Populaire reacted immediately via a press release, before convening a telephone press conference in the presence of Thierry Bouvard, Laurent Buffard, director of communication for the Banque Populaire brand, and Ronan Lucas, director of Team Banque Populaire.
For half an hour the trio tried to explain their decision, first mentioning the removal of the bonus for “finishers” from the previous edition in the new notice of race for the Vendée Globe 2024, published in October 2021. “We had suddenly chartered a boat [that of Tanguy Le Turquais, editor’s note] in the hope of scoring miles at the start of 2022, Clarisse then had a happy event” [she was replaced by Nicolas Lunven on the Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race and the Vendée Arctic, Editor’s note], explained Ronan Lucas. “Today, we are at zero mile, those who are just ahead of us have at least 2,600 miles and they intend to do the same races as us, so we will never catch up with them. The problem is that there are 42 or 43 of them ahead of us, these are projects that have all been launched, with a skipper and a boat, which it is hard to see coming to nothing.”
It is a calculation that some consider a little hasty, considering that all forty projects are by no means fully funded to date (see our article), while Clarisse Crémer still had six races ahead of her in 2023 and 2024 to accumulate miles, races which having a partner and a boat, she was sure to compete in. The fact remains that faced with this situation, the team and the sponsor turned to SAEM Vendée, organizer of the Vendée Globe, to “find solutions in the rules”, according to Thierry Bouvard, who adds: “We also tried to obtain an exceptional wild card, we were not listened to.”
Hence the decision, announced to Clarisse Crémer, to replace her with a skipper who should be announced soon. “If we had continued like this, we would most certainly not be able to do the Vendée Globe in 2024, we would find a team and a boat at the dock and that represents jobs and investments”, justifies the director of sponsorship and patronage of BPCE.
“A somewhat hasty decision”
After having reacted in a press release late Thursday evening, we questioned the SAEM Vendee for its “inflexibility” as Banque Populaire said. They agreed to answer us, this Friday in the words of its president, Alain Leboeuf. In the preamble he noted first that Banque Poulaire “did not denounce anything, quite the contrary”, when the rule removing the bonus for finishers was discussed within the Imoca class.“The number of miles traveled will come into play only if there are more than 40 registered and qualified,” he reminds us, which, according to him, is still far from being done. “If this is the case and Clarisse Crémer is not in it, we have also planned the wild card. They (Banque Populaire) would have liked to have it now, but how do you trigger that when there are currently no competitors selected?”
Saying he is “very surprised by the somewhat hasty decision” of Banque Populaire, Alain Leboeuf is however still open on this question of the wild card: “Clarisse Crémer is a highly deserving woman who did the last Vendée Globe, arrived first woman, 12th overall and broke Ellen MacArthur’s record, she ticks all the boxes, but we can’t make that decision today.”
The whole affair immediately caused a stir that went well beyond the world of sport, with reactions from the Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castera and from Christelle Morançais, president of the Pays de la Loire region, partner of the Vendée Globe. It was mentioned on Friday morning during a meeting of the Imoca class, in which many skippers and teams took part. “What is happening to Clarisse pains me a lot,” Isabelle Joschke, who is very involved in the subject of diversity, confided to us by message. “It is happening today in ocean racing, but it is a reflection of our society in which women clearly do not have the same rights as men. If there are still people who wonder why there are so few women in sports like ours, they have before their eyes a answers to their question.”
Towards a solution?
Anne Combier, who has worked with many women’s projects, considers the position of the Vendée Globe as “logical because we cannot favor one skipper more than another as long as registrations are not closed. But also it should be remembered that Clarisse warned everyone in the spring of 2021 that she wanted a child and it is true that no one considered the potential of that situation to work it into the regulations.” President of the class, Antoine Mermod advocates an appeasement: “We must find a way to get out of this situation, so that the protagonists manage to each take a step forward, because today, no one is a winner.”The parties are reported to be trying to get closer to each other, according to the president of the French Sailing Federation, Jean-Luc Denéchau, contacted Friday afternoon: “As soon as this controversy started, I immediately contacted all the parties. Everyone wants to find a solution: the organizers, who designed the rules in accordance with the class and quickly made them available to the skippers, and to Banque Populaire, and we are aware of the emotion aroused. Clarisse’s course is fantastic and it can’t end like this.”
When asked about a possible about-face, Banque Populaire, in a crisis cell, did not answer us. But for the banking group, which undoubtedly underestimated the impact of such a decision, the damage in terms of image will take time to be repaired.
Photo: Jérémie Lecaudey / BPCE