Well, that didn’t take long! Lending Club CEO Reynaud LaPlanche has only had his VPLP trimaran Lending Club for a few weeks, and he’s already set his first passage record. Look for some serious records to fall over the next 6 months thanks to this youthful and enthusiastic Franco-American billionaire. Project Manager and skipper Ryan Breymaier tells the story exclusively for you Anarchists…Mark Lloyd photos (except the last one, credit Quin Bisset) with galleries over here, and be ready for the LC’s next assault – the ages old Newport-Bermuda passage record – coming far sooner than you think.
About 15 minutes after our start in 20 knots of breeze upwind, JB Le Vaillant looked at me and said “We should turn around, go back and put all the sails up and start over!” I was tempted to agree with him as we found ourselves with the J2 and 2 reefs in the main upwind in 12 knots, tacking towards the Needles.
NOT ideal, especially for breaking a record Brian Thompson and his crew set on Maiden 2 after waiting for weeks for ideal conditions; ENE breeze, super flat water, sunshine sailing. Brian and his team (which included SCOTW Adrienne Calahan and C-Class hottie Helena Darvelid -ed) did the record back in 2002 with the full main and big gennaker. Lending Club crew Stan Delbarre was with them on their record run, and he’s been warning me in quiet tones for weeks. “Ryan, this will not be as easy as you think.”
Those words were ringing in my ears as I looked back to see a glassed off Solent arriving with the rising sun. We’d pinned our hopes on the NW breeze coming after the frontal passage with a shitty (but improving) sea state and plenty of breeze to power across; our window before leaving for the States was short, and it isn’t the right time of year for Easterlies…
In the end, after hurried discussion with JB, Boris Hermann who was navigating, and Renaud who was driving, we decided to take our chances. Just tacking back and setting the right sails and then restarting with full main and J1 would have taken forever…besides, in front of us at Hurst Castle we could see breeze on the water, and the buoy observations showed 25 at Portland Bill and 28 mid Channel.
It was as if the helicopter taking video had put a line on our bows; our nose poked out into the pressure, we bore away to 195 true, our course across the channel, and then the wisdom of our 2 reefs J2 sail plan made sense, as the boat leapt to full potential, daggerboard up, foil down, traveler down, and a hand on the sheets, flying 2 hulls full time across the channel, touching 37 knots several times…
IT is amazing how quickly the decisions are made at those speeds, Boris says to me “don’t freak out, there is a cargo ship 4 miles ahead, it will pass 1/2 a mile behind us in a minute or so, come up 3 degrees on average to be sure they pass”, which means a corresponding retrim of the traveller so as not to fly too high; no swimming for this crew today, thanks very much. Thank God most boats have AIS these days; without it, we would never have even seen the little fishing boats in the waves until almost too late.
As we got into the lee of Jersey, the sea flattened out completely, and breeze went aft another 15 degrees. Sailplan management is key in general on such a big boat, but here it was just 15 minutes of hard work. First shake out the reef. 6 minutes with 7 guys rotating on and off the handles, including two on a top handle in the halyard winch, 4 on the pedestals, and one resting, with just the driver with one hand on the traveller keeping us going quickly. Then comes sheeting back in, and getting the traveller back up, another 3 minutes for each with 4 grinding on the pedestals.
Next, bear away and unroll the J1, 2 minutes grinding with the boat dead downwind to unload the sail, even with it in the lee of the J2, which is on hanks, so as soon as the J1 is sheeted, is just dumped completely, halyard runs, and the sail falls onto the net (thank god for not having to pull it over lifelines out of the water) to have 2 sail-ties hastily thrown around it so the two bow guys can come back and start grinding again, as the call has been made to get to full hoist on the mainsail!
Another 12 minutes or so, 7 crew over their aerobic threshold, with dead arms, and we still cannot let up for a second, as we are now flying two hulls full time on flat water, which means a 30 second grinding effort every minute or so for 4 guys in low gear to keep the traveller just where it has to be, central hull just kissing. If it goes in, the boat-speed drops 2 knots, which is unthinkable, as Boris has informed us that we have 55 minutes left, and 25 miles to go.
I remember telling the grinder in front that we were literally lifting the hull out of the water with our backs, and it’s truly amazing to see the immediate effect of each turn of the handles. The central hull literally lifts centimeter by centimeter with each millimeter the traveller goes up the track.
In the end, we were 9 completely exhausted but extremely happy guys crossing the finish line with 8 minutes to spare in Dinard. For next time, we’d like to order up a 10 degree righty in the Solent, and we will shave another 30 minutes off the record! It’s never finished, is it? On this boat, it really isn’t. You sheet in, the speedo hits 30, and then you keep grinding. Everything is easy, except the grinding.
We all owe a huge thanks to Renaud for making this possible. Sure, the company he founded is on the sails, but he is personally financing this project, and without his vision and energy we wouldn’t be here. Also thanks to our technical partners; Guy Cotton foul weather gear, Marlow ropes, Great Circle weather date analysis, Switlik Survival Equipment and Underwater Kinetics technical equipment, who have made our lives much easier onboard this beast!