Following on from Class40 and the Figaro with Arthur Le Vaillant and Briton Sam Goodchild, Leyton have been on the Ocean Fifty circuit (ex Multi50) since last year. This is a partnership which links the funding specialists and consultants to Goodchild until the 2022 Route du Rhum 2022. Tip & Shaft took the the opportunity to talk with their marketing director, Caroline Villecroze.
What was it that motivated you in 2018 to get involved in sailing sponsorships?
Well it is starts with the meeting between François Gouilliard, one of the co-founders of Leyton, and Arthur Le Vaillant, and it was at an opportune moment for both, Leyton was then accelerating in terms of development, especially internationally, so the timing was really ideal for enhancing our brand image, our exposure and employee satisfaction and motivation.
Did you set out to put a toe in the water or were you yourselves convinced to look and invest long term?
From the outset we made a long-term commitment. But we do ask all the key questions every year to know if we are going in the right direction. In particular we are challenged by the bosses of other countries where Leyton operate and for which sailing is not necessarily a top level sport, such as in Canada. And our sponsorship project is not limited only to France, it spans the whole group, so each year, we investigate to see that the this sport is always working for us and so all in all things are not set in stone.
You started out with the Class40, then carried out a double headed project also with Figaro, today you are in Ocean Fifty, why all these different changes?
We actually started with the Class40 which was our skipper Arthur Le Vaillant’s boat. In 2019 we had the opportunity to charter a Figaro and the Solitaire du Figaro being a very “challenging” competition – and our skippers, Arthur and Sam, were both very keen – we thought it could be interesting. But there was a point when we realized that it was confusing the messages for our employees who did not know too much about what boat was which that we were with and we needed to restore the visibility on our project. One of the aspects of selecting which class of of sailboat is also what kind of experience that we can offer to our employees and our customers. The Multi50 was presented to us a few years ago as quite extraordinary format and we soon decided we would go in this direction whenever the real opportunity arose. And so this has been the case for the last year and we absolutely have no regrets, first of all because the trimaran offers great sensations and experiences and now the Ocean Fifty class has really built an exceptional programme.
“Sam has a more international profile”
You have also changed skipper why this choice to part ways with Arthur?
It’s much less of a separation away from Arthur than a choice to do more with Sam. We spent a very strong year and a half with Sam, between a very good Transat Jacques Vabre with Fabien Delahaye (second place) and his La Solitaire du Figaro last year, we created a strong human relationship with us and the company. He also has a more international profile which is important, since as I told you, we need to keep our overseas operations engaged in this project. But our three years with Arthur really went very well, he’s someone with a lot of ideas and projects he questioned a lot, we liked this depth of reflection, his enthusiasm. We just had to make a choice at a given moment.
What are your sports goals?
We want to win! The Transat Jacques Vabre, the Pro Sailing Tour and the Route du Rhum, that’s also why we changed boats [Leyton now rents the old Ciela Village], Editor’s note], which we have updated with a new electronic system, more developments are planned in the coming months. But beyond the sporting performance itself, what’s important is that the team works. And we have really wanted this year to have a female side to the project so that it really reflects the diversity that exists at Leyton. And this is actually not so easy in a multihull because very few sailors have access to this specific training and back up, but I think we will be one of the only crews with one or two women on board this year [not yet chosen, the announcement will made soon, Editor’s note] and we are quite proud of that. It is also from this female perspective that we approached The Magenta Project to set up a competition that will allow nine young people this year women to have training sessions on the boat. We want to give them access to this type of support so that tomorrow there will be more choices for sailors and more female sailors available to sail on our boat or on others and also so that they can build their own crew.
Is it possible we might see a mixed duo co-skippering Leyton on the Transat Jacques Vabre?
That was one of our goals, but today so far we have failed to identify a sailor who would be sufficiently trained so that Sam would be completely at ease. So unfortunately, for this time it won’t be so but the skipper choice is pending, but we do want to come back on to the Transat Jacques Vabre with a female sailor and we hope that it will be possible for years to come.
“We keep our eyes and ears on the Vendée Globe”
After the 2020 race are you thinking perhaps of the next Vendée Globe?
Yes, absolutely. We like the Ocean Fifty format very much, we will focus on it for the next two years, but of course we keep an eye on the Imoca class and and a Vendée Globe project if it makes sense for Leyton in the future. We have not excluded the idea of being at start of the next on and I think it’s one of our skipper’s favourite goals.
Could you also be tempted by the Ultim class?
No, not today. It’s too big, it’s not what we are, we are a nimble, smart, young operation; for me, the Ultim does not reflect us it is another arena.
How much is Leyton’s annual investment in sailing today?
I can’t tell you, because if I gave you a number, it would not really be representative of the real investment that it represents, it is difficult to quantify. There are a lot of variables added into such a project: the sports part, public relations, the communication budget and for us, all the investments around diversity and sustainable development. This year we really wanted the boat to serve as a test bed for innovations for tomorrow’s technologies in the field of biodiversity, we are in discussion with three companies to incorporate their technologies. So the project has so many dimensions, including at within our teams, that it is not possible to give you a amount.
What type of sponsor are you?
We are a totally happy sponsor! But we are also a sponsor of a new kind. It is evident that sailing is great for brand awareness for us – we recently conducted a survey which showed that sailing now delivers one fifth of Leyton’s awareness. But what we are looking for is more of a strong commitment to see the the border between the sailing team and the communication and consultant teams merge seamlessly. Our challenge is to have our employees on board so that don’t just feel like we are a classic sponsoring outfit but they are part of it and benefit just as the company does. I think today we are getting there and we are very proud of what we have built in three years.
Photo: Martin Viezzer / Leyton Sailing Team