LendingClub founder Renaud Laplanche competes as hard on water as he does in business.
So when the lifelong sailor fell two hours short of a transpacific record in 2013, racing a 73-foot trimaran from southern California to Honolulu in five days and 11 hours, he did what any fanatic would do.
"We decided to get a bigger boat for 2015," Laplanche told an audience at the San Francisco Yacht Club on Wednesday.
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The Lending Club 2 is 105-feet long and 73-feet wide, with a mast height that reaches about 140 feet. At its fastest, the yacht can top 43 knots, or close to 50 miles per hour.
Starting July 18, Laplanche's nine-person crew will again take aim at the record when it begins the 2015 Transpacific Yacht Race (Transpac). To gear up for the event, Laplanche and co-skipper Ryan Breymaier are sailing the Lending Club 2 in the San Francisco Bay, bringing with them employees, customers, investors, reporters and school children who had never before been on a boat.
Wednesday's tour through the Bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge and alongside Alcatraz Island, reached speeds topping 37 knots. Guests got to experience sharp turns, big waves and plenty of sliding and tumbling as the yacht lifted onto its edges.
It was just one of many tours for the crew before the next competition begins. About 60 to 75 people a day are taking rides in the Bay. Previously the boat was in New York, where 400 or so guests over 10 days got to see the Statue of Liberty from a speeding trimaran.
"We're trying to be a little bit of an ambassador for the sport in this country," Breymaier told the Yacht Club audience. "We're here to get some records under our belt. At the same time, the more people we can get excited about this kind of sailing the better off we are."
Already, the Lending Club 2 has captured two world records since Laplanche signed a nine-month lease for the boat in January. The yacht sailed the English Channel (144 nautical miles) on April 1, in 5 hours and 15 minutes. Less than three weeks later, it sailed 642 miles from Newport, Rhode Island to Bermuda in just under 23 hours and 9 minutes.
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For Laplanche, sailing is much more than just a rich man's hobby. A native of France, Laplanche jumped into the sport when he was seven and won multiple national championships before going off to law school.
His law career brought him to New York in the 1990s, and from there he started a software company that he sold to Oracle in 2005. It's purely coincidental that he landed at the tech giant owned by the sailing-obsessed Larry Ellison, whose Team Oracle won its second America's Cup in 2013.
Laplanche left Oracle in 2006 and started LendingClub the following year, building a business to match borrowers with investors and removing the need for banks to handle a subset of consumer loans.
The San Francisco-based company has now originated more than $9 billion in loans. It went public in December on the New York Stock Exchange and has a $5.5 billion market capitalization.
Laplanche's personal shares are valued at over $220 million, but that's about half what they were worth shortly after the IPO.
Asked at the Yacht Club if the banks are afraid of LendingClub, Laplanche joked that they're "building bigger boats." The trimaran he's leasing is owned--and in the process of being sold--by a French bank. (Laplanche is quick to point out that the boat is a personal expense.)
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In actuality, Laplanche said LendingClub is working alongside many banks, such as a partnership it signed in April with Citigroup to enable more community lending.
Should all go as planned, the Lending Club 2 will cross the Transpac finish line on July 23. Laplanche isn't certain he's going to be able to enjoy much vacation time in Hawaii though.
LendingClub is slated to report second-quarter earnings in early August.