Ryan Breymaier: To be the first American to finish on the Vendee Globe podium

Published on April 30th, 2014

Among the prominent peaks in the ocean racing mountain range, the Vendee Globe is arguably the highest point. A singlehanded non-stop race in the high performance Open 60 class, the route swallows people whole.

You sail around the world from west to east via the three major capes of Good Hope, Leeuwin and the Horn. There is a long slide down the Atlantic, the perilous voyage across the Southern Ocean with firstly the Indian Ocean and its crossed seas, and then the Pacific Ocean. Finally, there is the climb back up the Atlantic to head back to Les Sables d’Olonne in France, which marks the start and finish.

During the 2012 edition, when 9 of the 20 starters failed to finish, Frenchman François Gabart set a new solo record of 78 day, 2 hours, 16 minutes and 40 seconds. When the 2016 edition begins, American Ryan Breymaier wants to contend for the title.

There have been American skippers that have come before Ryan, but none capable of finishing on the podium. Ryan wants to be the first, but there are significant obstacles that lie before him.

Ryan may have the talent, but now he needs the funding.

“In order to have a serious chance at winning the Vendee, a new boat is absolutely critical,” Ryan said. “In US $ terms, the investment for a new boat is just under 5 million, and yearly operations budgets are in the order of 2.5 to 3 million. This puts the total campaign close to 10 million. Obviously a longer term campaign will amortize the build cost over a longer period, and maximize gain for the sponsor.”

There is no pot of gold that comes with winning. Top programs are fully sponsored. “Traditionally sailing sponsorships have been one main sponsor, and technical/logistics partners alongside,” Ryan notes. “There are a few examples of sponsor partnerships, but it is critical that the aims and methods of the partners be aligned or it is not really feasible.”

Ryan remains optimistic, particular with the announcement in January that Americans Charlie Enright and Mark Towill had landed a primary sponsor for their 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race campaign.

“It shows that we Americans are very motivated to get out there and find sponsorship for big sailing events,” explains Ryan. “I see our efforts for finding sponsorship absolutely complimentary and I hope that through our respective campaigns we have touched enough boardrooms and there are more and more decision-makers paying attention to our sport.”

Attracting American sponsorship remains elusive. “We have a long way to go in terms of demonstrating the potential of a sailing sponsorship to American corporations,” Ryan acknowledges. “Despite years of work, Charlie and Mark have the Turkish company Alvimedica supporting their campaign. That being said, the CEO of Alvimedica has serious business interests in the US markets and has the vision to understand this is a superb opportunity to gain exposure on this side of the Atlantic.”

Ryan is working with Five° West to raise sponsorship for and manage his Vendee Globe campaign. Five° West works with well known Open 60 skipper Alex Thomson and sponsor HUGO BOSS.

“Finding a sponsor is a daunting task, especially when we’re talking in millions of dollars,” admits Ryan. “It’s been a great advantage to have the support of such a professional team. Five° West have provided support not only through reaching out to their network of contacts, but also by providing a solid and compelling case study through an existing successful program.

“I feel we are closer to the goal now than we were 6 months ago, but there is a lot of work still to be done in a short period of time to get to the start line of this Vendee in winning fashion.”

In the immediate future, Ryan’s partnership with Five° West has landed him as co-skipper onboard the Open 60 HUGO BOSS for the upcoming Ocean Masters race, a double-handed transatlantic from New York to Barcelona, starting on June 1st.

“Alex needs to be home for the birth of his second child, due in the first week of June and has asked me to take his place,” said Ryan. “This is an incredible opportunity for me, and I am very proud to have Alex and HUGO BOSS put their trust in me to fill his shoes in such an important way.”

Ryan will be sailing with Pepe Ribes, a four-time Volvo Ocean Race competitor. Look for Ryan and Hugo Boss to be in New York at North Cove Marina on approximately May 11-19, and then in Newport, RI on May 20-24. The team will return to North Cove on May 29 to prepare for the Ocean Masters race start on June 1.

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