Paul Meilhat, the galley of a Rum Road winner today without a sponsor


Without a partner in the Vendée Globe at two, the winner of the Route du rum in Imoca tells his quest for funding to be on the starting line at Les Sables d'Olonne.
                                                                                                                            Attended in a brewery next to the National Assembly, Paul Meilhat goes almost unnoticed with his night-blue suit jacket and white shirt, the uniform in good standing in the area. His nascent beard, his hair in battle and his face burnt by the spray still betray the unique pedigree of the boy, more accustomed to brave the oceans than to survey the chic neighborhoods. Having just returned from Guadeloupe where he triumphed in the Imoca Monocoque Rum Road, the tall blond took over another race. A marathon started a year ago, when the insurance group SMA, its sponsor since 2014, announced the end of its sailing program after the Rum for strategic reasons. "ALSO READ – Meilhat wins in Imoca after a beautiful transatlantic and the Thomson error Despite the tracks, Meilhat has not yet found the partner who will take over to allow him to align at the start of his second Vendée Globe in November 2020 (he had abandoned the first). Hurry up. "For the moment, I have nothing at all. It's hard. If we want to launch a new boat project, it is played by the end of the year, "said the 36-year-old sailor who rode to the capital to convince potential future sponsors and satisfy his recent contractual obligations with ADM. Setting aside during the race – "I took it off my head, it's thanks to that I was able to win", and also to the incredible failure of Alex Thomson -, the uncertainty related to his future soon recolonized his brain. "It ruins my victory," he says. People congratulate me but I do not enjoy this success. I have no sponsor and since I returned, I think only that. Bitter rum. A commercial job Imagining a Ligue 1 striker without a club seems inconceivable. In all sports, we snatch the best, we raise the auction. This is not necessarily the case in sailing. "The relationship between performance and sponsorship value is not there yet, although things are improving. A sailing project is primarily a business project, it goes beyond sport. In our efforts, we do a real job of commercial. We give a mirror to our interlocutors. It is up to us to propose a project that meets their expectations, "illuminates Meilhat, still empty-handed despite his results and his reputation as a skipper of excellence, strengthened by this victory at the helm of an" old "boat without foils and thanks to dizzying efforts (he slept only three hours a day during the transatlantic hike). Second in Pointe-à-Pitre, Yann Eliès is also without a sponsor. Competitors on the water, the two sailors are also on the ground, in their quest for partners. Thirty boats are expected at Les Sables d'Olonne in two years. The places are expensive. "READ ALSO – Yann Eliès:" The win is also what thrills people "How can we be in the running for the title of sailor of the year and thus find the beak in the water ? "Before, the skippers had to carry everything at arm's length and were looking for the sponsors themselves. We are professional skippers. This part of the job, we know less. And when our projects stop, we lost contact with the networks, concedes Paul Meilhat. It's our fault. But it's complicated because we invest a lot on the athlete. "Aided by SMA with whom he keeps" excellent relations ", the Finistérien multiplies appointments, has some leads" likely to succeed "but refuses to give in to optimism. "To say that I will be at the start of the Vendée Globe, it is useless. Today, I have no assurance of being there. I have the determination, the will and the team (that of Mer Agitée, the racing team off Michel Desjoyeaux, owner of the boat, Ed) but as long as we do not have the partner, we are at zero. "" I'm not sailing for glory "Paul MeilhatConstruct a new Imoca (count about 5 M € off operating budget) or modernize the current by giving foils, Meilhat has studied all the options to stick to the desires and resources interested parties. It would be well in the heart of a project involving several SMEs but also in defense of an environmental or societal cause. "I want to keep people dreaming, taking them with me around the world and telling stories. I do not sail for glory. The freshly braided laurels can still help end up convincing a decision maker to get on board.


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