Bruno Peyron spoke to Elaine Bunting about the prospects for The Race, his new giant catamaran, and his threat of legal action
In early October, Bruno Peyron postponed The Race, his round the world event for the ‘giant class’, which was due to start in February, The potential challengers had melted away one by one, and Peyron blamed it on a difficult economic climate.
The only certain entry would have been his own new Gilles Ollier-designed cat, which will be launched next month in France. The funding of this new boat is interdependent on Peyron’s maxi multihull programme.
Then, a week later, Tracy Edwards’s announced sponsorship of £38 million for a set of races for maxis and maxi multihulls – a bolt from the blue, Peyron says. He believes his entire series is now in jeopardy and is threatening legal action. Elaine Bunting interviewed him:
Can you tell me what will happen with The Race and The Race Tour?
“Obviously it’s a bit difficult to say what’s going to happen in the future of The Race and The Race Tour. I think what will happen will be a legal decision.
“The partners we had secured for the long-term process have also been a bit shocked about what happened. We are sitting around the table together to see what we can do, from where we are coming after 15 years of work. It’s a bit delicate and too early to decide what will happen, except that we are not leaving things like that.
“Just the fact that things like that can happen puts a lot of different questions on the table. One of them is, is it still the spirit of what we have been trying to create? In that case I would probably change my job. I’m not interested to promote this kind of spirit any more.”
What position are you in, vis a vis your own boat?
“That’s a very good question because you can imagine that this kind of boat has been built with some kind of funding and strong partners. We are lucky enough to raise about $70m in the past eight years in the maxi multihull syndicate world and 100 per cent of that is completely new business; not one of them has been in sailing before.
“So this partner could be the confidential partner of The Race and The Race Tour, involved in the future process, and we were very happy with the work we had done together. But most of them were betting on the long-term strategy and vision we presented to them.”
When is the boat going to be launched? “It will be launched at the end of November. It’s been 14 months of building.”
What is your intention now to do with the boat?
“Too early to say. I don’t know. Everything is broken.”
You could do a Jules Verne, obviously.
“Maybe we can defend the Jules Verne. But against who? To say what? I don’t know.
“If that’s the case, I will challenge officially, on a worldwide scale, these people who [I believe] have been contributing to the situation now. But it’s too early to say.”
Is there a possibility that you might do Tracy Edwards’s race in your boat?
“I created this new world after 15 years of work and, by coincidence, who conceived and built the new boats? That’s me also. I have spent 15 years working for this vision.
“Eighty per cent of the job was already done and it was just missing things to finish the job. They should have come and said to us: “Here’s the good news. We succeeded in getting the last piece of the big puzzle. What can we do together?” The answer should have come in ten minutes.
“It’s not a question of power games or money or whatever. If that should have been the case I would never have let all the funding we had in the past 10 years go on other challengers, but I did it.”
Does it not ultimately make sense to join forces?
“It should have been good sense, yes.”
Have your advances been rebuffed?
“I have not been turned away. They didn’t even talk about it. No contact at all.
“The last challengers’ meeting was in April, when I came back from Asia and when I explained to them the plans for Middle Eastern and Asian potential courses. I explained that it was a possibility that we had a race by the way between Cape Town and Suez, and Malaysia and China.
“And the rest of the story, you know it. One day they [the potential entrants] decided not to do any more The Race, which was very good news for the event! And the other step was last week, without any call, any e-mail. Nothing.”
A big surprise?
“We can call this a surprise, yes.
“If sailing is this, I’m not interested in this particular game.”
Where does that leave you with your new boat and with the programme agreed for it with the sponsor?
“The programme has been agreed by all the challengers, especially inside the concept of the world championship we proposed to them last December. Which is The Race, Jules Verne, The Race Tour, a global four-yearly programme in order to be in position to secure high commercial values for all the potential partners.
“So it was not only sailing, but a business strategy to help the syndicates raise money. And that’s how we signed the contracts with the partners [sponsors], not only on this side but on the organisation side.”
Did the challengers actually sign contracts with you that they were committed to this programme?
“It was not a contract, because the contract was not ready in December; it was just an official announcement at the Paris Boat Show.
“But it was not only them, by coincidence, but them plus all the guys from the Volvo, because they were trying to make Volvo agree to sit round the table to go in that direction [choosing multihulls]. It was Dalton, Nilsson – all these guys.
“But I respect very much the decision of Volvo. I mean, they didn’t agree to go in that direction, but that’s their choice. This choice for monohulls is very much respectable, even if we disagree with it. This is a big difference from using 15 years of work and the past two, three years’ of knowledge.
“If you are sharing the same vision in the long-term perspective you should understand that you have two solutions. One is to bring what you get into the pool to finish the job and if they had tried this it would have been solved for the next 20 years. Easy.”
It isn’t a very happy situation if it ends in a legal dispute, is it?
“No, it isn’t, and I can tell you: everything that has happened in the last ten years has not been very easy to handle but we always keep quiet to try to protect the concerns. But this is beyond the frontiers. There is no question that we can let this happen.”
Is the legal threat to seek restitution or the ownership of the event?
“I don’t know. It’s not my job. The only thing I can answer is that it’s not a power game or a money game. I don’t care. Everybody who has been working with us knows that. The whole energy and money we spent has been spent for the global sailing world. So if they came to us saying, “Let’s finish the job,” it would have been just a piece of cake.
“I don’t care who is going to organise and how. That’s another question. But what is the most difficult to accept is that we were so close to the final success, for everybody. So it’s very difficult to answer about what will happen.”
What about your other plans for The Race Tour and to have a smaller one-design multihull? Where is that at?
“Everything is on standby. Everything.”
Was that quite advanced? Where had the plans got to?
“Yes. I think you are aware that everything was ready to start. But in the past six months we had such a level of doubt about their final intentions [to commit to the race], some of them, that we decided to slow down the process a bit and it was a good thing to do. So now everything is on standby.”
I’m still not sure about your boat. When it is launched, what are you going to do with it?
“I don’t know. That is why destroying the [present situation] will have a lot of consequences.”
Would you sell the boat?
“I don’t know. We’ll see.”