Sailing's most bizarre sponsor

Arnaud Boissières talks about his next Vendee Globe campaign
In France, they have some unusual sponsors of sailing. Aside from the various regions (Aquitaine, Charente Maritime, Nord Pas du Calais, Langedou Roussillon, etc) we have or have had nuclear companies (Areva), defence contractors (DCNS, Safran), supermarkets (Geant, Leclerc), food (Fleury Michon - cold meats, Sodebo – pizzas, Bonduelle – tinned veg) as well as car manufacturers (Suzuki, Lada), banks (Banque Populaire), insurance companies (Groupama) and property companies (Foncia). But for the last two Vendee Globes and, surprisingly, a company that in these hard economic times is forging ahead straight into its third campaign for the solo non-stop round the world race is one that makes…verandas. Yes, those glass clad lean-tos for your house. Akena Verandas first sponsored Raphael Dinelli in the 2004 Vendee Globe, but for the last race changed allegiance to up and coming solo sailor Arnaud Boissières. Now on their third go and still with Boissières, they have acquired the Farr-designed PRB, that Vincent Riou sailed in the last Vendee Globe, their first potentially race-winning boat, with the aim of having Boissières sail it in the 2012-3 Vendee Globe. “Akena Verandas are based near Les Sables d’Olonne, which is why they choose an Open 60,” explains Boissières. Vendee-based companies such as Akena, as well as PRB and Sodebo, are keen to support their region’s top sporting event. “The boss of Akena Verandas is a friend of the boss of PRB and one time the boss of PRB, Jean-Jacques Laurent said to Mr Chabot [head of Akena Verandas] ‘try to do the Vendee Globe - it is like a drug’. And for the business, inside the company it gives them a big trip, they never sail, they only have sailed with me and throughout the Vendee Globe they were following me.” According to Boissières, Akena Verandas employ 550 people,