Realizing a dream.
Several years ago at a Regatta I got a poster of Groupama III. I remember looking at it in full go sailing across the ocean and being amazed at the power. I thought it was only a dream to sail on such a magnificent boat. Several years later that dream came true. Here is how it happened.
Lending Club II Guest Sail
Sometimes you have to beg borrow or steal to get a ride on a boat of your dreams. This time it only took a few e-mails and I found a spot. Currently the team is doing rides for the employees of Lending Club based in San Francisco. They are taking 15 employees a trip, four times a day, seven days a week. This is all while preparing for the 2015 Trans-Pac Race. Renaud Laplanche the CEO of Lending Club and team principal / co-skipper of Lending Club Sailing set this up as a reward and team building experience for his employees.
Lending Club II is a 105 foot long 75 foot wide ocean racing Trimaran designed to break records. Renaud co-Skipper and Ryan Breymaier co-Skipper met on the 2013 campaign for the Transpac. Renaud joined the team and with his own money Lending Club was put on the yacht . A friendship formed and a team was born. After falling just short of the record in 2013 both wanted another shot. Renaud stepped into a negation of one of the fastest sailing yachts in the world. Renaud was fortunate enough to be in position charter a season during the transition of ownership from Banque Populaire to IDEC. He offered to charter the boat for the 2015 season. He and Ryan assembled the team and Lending Club II was born.
The goals were to break three records in the season they have the boat. The First was the English Channel: Cowes to Dinard, 138-nautical mile passage was completed in 5 hours and 15 minutes at an average speed of 26.36 knots; shaving 8 minutes off the record that had stood since 2002. Next up was the Newport to Bermuda Record: 23 hours, 9 minutes, 52 seconds at an average speed of 27 knots. The next record attempt is the TransPac which is 2200 miles of open ocean between California and Hawaii.
I met up Friday morning with at the embarkation dock. I made sure to show up early in case there was an opening and I could get some extra time. I saw Photoboy there from Pressure Drop, Nicola and Tim were also there running the RIB as the shuttle. The Lending Club group left and I went to get a coffee while I waited for the next round. When the rib returned the next trip began to gather. Everyone was offered foulies and PFD's, then given a safety briefing before boarding the RIB. We drove out and waited for the Tri to return from the previous trip. We boarded the Tri and moved to the back for the onboard safety briefing. We watched as the previous group left and then we turned up the bay.
There was one reef on the main and then the #2 jib was raised. We started a long tack up the bay at 45 deg off the wind. We were doing 20 knots in 15 knots of wind speed. Amazing performance and the wind coming over the boat was the only indication of our speed. I went down the ladder to inspect the "Living quarters"; it is here you see where this boat is built for speed. The interior is very minimal and only the basics are there, a small galley section next to 3 hanging racks, another set of hanging racks past the bulkhead, a small rack area in front of that. Electronics are hung on the port wall of the main cabin all set for easy access or replacements.
We continued upwind and had to tack, this showed the rigors these crews face. Ryan called the maneuver and the crew had to grind the main, jib, dagger boards in and out as needed. The 2 grinding pedestals can be shifted as needed to adjust anything on the boat. I was given a chance to grind on our second maneuver and it is a workout. We were careful to stay clear of ferry traffic while out in the bay, as a boat this big and fast eats up a lot of water. Ryan was allowing the guests to drive as long as we were clear of traffic, and navigation hazards. We had tacked twice and then we were sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge.
Ryan turned us down and then again handed off the helm to another eager guest. Over toward the San Francisco City Front we were now going in the high 20 to 30 knots. This made the Bay feel small and the boat just continued to smoothly power through the wind and water like it was nothing. We jibed again and turned over toward Sausalito, the wind was easy 15 knots and we were getting 30 knots of boat speed with the 2 sails up. Knowing we were going to jibe again I positioned myself next to the leeward wheel and when Ryan came across he offered me the wheel. We were still in the jibe and Ryan talked me through the finish and what angles to sail. I got the feel of the wheel with a little coaching and was off. We rolled up to 105 degrees for speed and then had to drop down to 120 to clear Alcatraz. Even without hoisting the downwind sail we were speeding down the bay. After the wind shadow was cleared we accelerated again into the mid thirty knot range. We topped out at 35.4 knots on my run down. The feeling from the helm is wonderful but as we got to the interchange area I handed the helm back to Ryan. We rolled the #2 jib away and Ryan turned us up into the wind and Tim and Nicola pulled the RIB along side. We waited for the next group to board, and then we climbed down to the RIB.
We watched Lending Club II sail away and made our way back to the dock. We got back on the dock and everyone was all smiles. I was ecstatic to have had a chance to drive the beautiful machine that is Lending Club II. I again thanked the shore crew Nicola and Tim then walked away enjoying everything the day had to offer. Thank you to Renaud Laplanche, Ryan and Nicola Breymaier, Tim for shuttling us and the rest of the crew for a wonderful sailing experience. We wish the team the best and hope to see the TransPac record added to the long list of accomplishments for the team and the boat.