Burgundian Winemaker crosses Channel to run Marathon in aid of the RNLI

A leading French winemaker who spends his days nestled among the rolling vineyards of rural Burgundy is not the first person you’d expect to pledge support for such a quintessentially British charity as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Yet Benjamin Leroux, a star winemaker from the Cote d’Or region around Beaune – the premier wine-producing region in France - has pledged to donate a jaw dropping £15,000 to the RNLI to help save lives at sea, despite living more than 400 miles from the Channel coastline.

Benjamin, along with his IT manager Ghislain Acher, is preparing to run in the Virgin London Marathon. He is raising this phenomenal amount through a mixture of individual sponsorship and the proceeds of a prestigious wine dinner and auction taking place in the City of London tomorrow (19 April), organised in conjunction with Benjamin’s UK importer, Berry Bros.

This impressive fundraising effort adds an extra dimension to the Anglo-Franco notion of entente cordiale, and completes a long held ambition for Benjamin to take part in arguably the world’s most famous marathon event.

‘If it wasn’t for the RNLI, I don’t think I’d have got the chance to run the London marathon,’ he said, adding: ‘so I was keen to show how grateful I am by raising as much money as possible for the work the charity does.’

Benjamin, 36, is a keen runner with 10 marathons under his belt already, while colleague Ghislain has clocked up no less than 45 marathons. But, despite repeated attempts at entry, neither had been able to obtain a place in the flagship London event. That is, until the Royal National Lifeboat Institution stepped in.

Benjamin explained: ‘My business partner, Ian Laing, is a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, as is the Chief Executive of the RNLI, Paul Boissier. Ian knows only too well how much we’re into running, and he told Paul we were very keen to get a place as we had been unsuccessful in the past.

‘That opened up discussions between us and we felt confident that if we took a place running for ‘Team RNLI’, we would be able to at least meet the minimum sponsorship requirements.’

The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea around the coast of the UK and Republic of Ireland, through its network of lifeboats, beach lifeguards and prevention work. The RNLI remains a charity and therefore relies on donations and fundraising by the likes of Benjamin and Ghislain to succeed. 

As it turns out, Benjamin and Ghislain have far exceeded the minimum amount for sponsorship asked for by the RNLI, thanks to support from family and friends, as well as match funding from the business in France. Indeed, the final amount could even exceed their target and be nearer £20,000 in total. Almost half this sum will be raised by the London dinner from the 36 guests present, which is mark of the respect with which Benjamin is held as a winemaker.

Benjamin said: ‘We’re keen to direct whatever we raise to some tangible project if possible, and given that our link to the RNLI originates in Cowes, we’d like the money to fund the cost of a year’s crew training for the volunteer lifeboat crew at Cowes RNLI for 2014. I went to Cowes with two other winemakers from the Cote d’Or as guests of the Royal Yacht Squadron in 2011, and it was clear how well respected the RNLI is, not only on the Isle of Wight, but across the whole nation.

Paul Boissier, Chief Executive of the RNLI, said: ‘We’re only too happy to help the chaps out – in all honesty I am honoured that the RNLI commands such respect and admiration from so far away. That said, I am humbled and grateful for the phenomenal fundraising effort they are making – every penny will help towards our goal of saving lives.’
For more information on the RNLI please click here.   

Written by: Ben Moss

Ben Moss 


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