Clarisse Crémer's Vendée Globe campaign is back on track with L’Occitane en Provence now stepping in a headline sponsor and Alex Thomson heading the team

It has been confirmed that Clarisse Crémer’s Vendée Globe campaign is back on with L’Occitane en Provence stepping in as headline sponsor, while British five-time Vendée Globe veteran Alex Thomson has been confirmed as team principal.

Earlier this year, the news that Clarisse Crémer had been dropped by her sponsor following time away from sailing to have a baby shook the yachting world and left the French sailor’s dreams of being on the startline for the 2024 Vendée Globe in tatters.

Today’s announcement confirms that Crémer will once again be competing for a place on the startline of the single-handed around the world race. “I can’t wait to get back to sailing,” she commented in today’s statement.

Crémer gave birth to her daughter last November and was due to sail for Banque Populaire in the forthcoming Vendée Globe, with the French banking giant having agreed to purchase the IMOCA 60 Apivia. The Verdier-designed FRA 79, formerly Apivia, is the fastest boat of its generation, in which Charlie Dalin won the Transat Jacques Vabre (2019), finished second in the Vendée Globe (2021, having crossed the line in 1st before redress was awarded for the rescue of Kevin Escoffier) and the Route du Rhum (2022).

After she was dropped by Banque Populaire, Crémer took to social media stating that her sponsor knew of her pregnancy when the deal was agreed and expressed her disappointment in the outcome. The story was picked up by a number of national and international publications and following the backlash Banque Populaire withdrew from the race completely, leaving one of the most competitive IMOCA 60s in the fleet available.

Apivia, the IMOCA upon which Cremer will compete in the next Vendee after being rebranded under new sponsor L’Occitane en Provence. Photo: Pierre Bouras

On 22 March 2023, Alex Thomson announced the purchase of Apivia from Banque Populaire leading to much speculation that Crémer could again be racing on the boat (Thomson’s team is also supporting newcomer Scott Shawyer of Canada Ocean Racing in his goal to reach the 2028 Vendée Globe).

But with today’s latest announcement, it is finally confirmed that Crémer will indeed be skippering the IMOCA 60 under the sponsorship of L’Occitane en Provence and with Thomson as Team Principal.

Clairisse Crémer started her sailing career whilst at university and went on to finish 2nd in her first solo race, the 2017 Mini Transat. She moved onto the Figaro class before joining the Banque Populaire sailing team in 2019 to take on her first Vendée Globe in 2020 – where she finished 12th and was the first female sailor.

“I am particularly happy and proud to be able to start this new adventure with L’Occitane en Provence. I have had the Vendée Globe 2024 in mind since I last rounded the Cape of Good Hope and it is a privilege to have them by my side to pursue this challenge,” Crémer commented.

“These last few months have been intense, sometimes hard, but I will always be grateful to all those who have believed in me and who have enabled me, year after year, to progress and take part in the major events in ocean racing.

“Today I’m focused on the future: it’s a great joy to have an extraordinary boat and a great team to accompany me in this adventure, and I can’t wait to get back to sailing.

“The Vendée Globe starting line is still a long way off and there are still many challenges to be faced, but I am putting all my energy into the success of this project to prove that with desire, determination and the right partners, we can make society, companies and sport more equitable.”

Adrien Geiger, Managing Director of L’Occitane en Provence said: “We are very proud to support Clarisse Crémer, a true role model for the new generations, and to help her accomplish her sporting and human adventure.

“We have decided to join forces to promote women’s leadership in sailing, a competitive world that is still largely male. Indeed, we make it a point of honour to support all women in their personal and professional projects.

“From 2020, we have decided to take a strong position on the key issue of parenthood. L’Occitane has become the first international cosmetics group to implement a parental leave policy on such a broad international scale. This policy applies to L’Occitane employees worldwide, including company-owned offices, factories and shops.”

Alex Thomson, Team Principal, said: “Clarisse is one of the most talented sailors in ocean racing and she deserves to be at the start of the Vendée Globe next year.

“My team and I are delighted that L’Occitane en Provence will support Clarisse for the Vendée Globe. We want to prove to the world that becoming a mother doesn’t change who you are as an athlete. We intend to provide Clarisse with all the tools that will enable her to compete with equity.”

There is now a race against time for Cremer’s team to shape their support team, make any technical updates to the boat, plan their race schedule and start the race for qualifying miles, to qualify for the next Vendée Globe which starts 10th November 2024.

Her position on the startline is yet to be guaranteed (though it would be extraordinary if race organisers did not award her a place after the furore that followed her sacking). But with the backing of L’Occitane en Provence – themselves a major backer of Vendée campaigns, a boat that is arguably the hottest property in the over-subscribed IMOCA fleet, and with Alex Thomson working alongside Crémer as Team Principal, this is likely to be a highly competitive campaign.

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