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Lending Club 2: The Fast Lane

For Lending Club’s CEO, putting his big trimaran into the record books is only half the mission.

December 21, 2015
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Lending Club CEO Renaud Laplanche chartered the maxi Trimaran, formerly Groupama 3, for record attempts as well as client and employee relations. Here. guests enjoy a spin in New York City. Quin Bisset

At 18 tons, 105 feet, and 74 feet of beam, getting Lending Club 2 off the dock is a feat. It’s an orchestrated exit involving an army wrestling spring lines, and two motorboats. Of the total tonnage, the sails alone account for two. Four people must drag the medium gennaker to the forward trampoline, and four grinders work in shifts to hoist the behemoth mainsail to the top of the 140-foot mast.

With 25 knots of boatspeed, and its windward hull flying, the boat is remarkably stable. The lack of wetted surface and the sheer amount of sail area means acceleration in puffs is instant. Its boat captain, Jan Majer, says the trimaran is capable of speeds in excess of 40 knots.

There’s some serious power in the sailplan, but the skill with which the crew handles the boat is a testament to the program that co-skippers Renaud Laplanche and Ryan Breymaier have built.

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Laplanche, CEO of Lending Club, a peer-to-peer credit marketplace, is a two-time French Laser national champion. He shares the helm with Breymaier, the team’s program director, who has been responsible for the Lending Club Sailing program since its inception in 2013. Lending Club 2 is the second trimaran sailed by the team, but the first chartered for one primary purpose: to break ocean-passage records. In early 2015, they crossed off two, from Cowes to Dinard and Newport to Bermuda. Lending Club 2 sailed the Newport to Bermuda course more than 14 hours faster than previous record holder, Steve Fossett’s PlayStation. “Getting into the Gulf Stream at 40 knots, with bright sunshine, the leeward hull spraying water up 10 feet in the air, and the temperature climbing as we got deeper into it—that was quite epic,” says Laplanche.

“The campaign is really Renaud’s,” says Breymaier of his co-skipper. “It’s a passion. There’s no company money being used to fund the campaign, and he donates the sails to the company to use as advertising.”

When not chasing records, the boat is used to entertain employees, investors, and friends. “It’s like the Patriots in New England,” says Breymaier. “Having everyone standing behind one team, cheering them on toward the same goals, is powerful.” “The attributes of high performance sailing—particularly technology, innovation, strategy, tactics, safety, teamwork—align well with Lending Club’s values as a business,” says Laplanche. “It felt natural and useful to communicate those values through the record-breaking program.”

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Before the Transpac start in July, Lending Club 2 will host five weeks of “PR sailing” in San Francisco.

“It’s a way for everyone to get involved and get excited about the sport, about the program, and about the boat,” says Breymaier.

The private program with a public facade has so far been successful. “Our guests in New York have been sending us raving emails since,” says Laplanche. “It was quite fun to cross Staten Island Ferries at 30 knots in New York—and it was also quite rewarding to experience the boat through the eyes of our guests, especially the kids.

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“For the company, it’s another opportunity for employees to rally around a common goal as a team. For me as a CEO, it’s an opportunity to send a message to our employees: Dream big, and pursue your dreams.”

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