At 01:18hrs UTC Tuesday morning, the PRB Team was informed that their Vendée Globe race skipper Kevin Escoffier had been rescued by fellow Vendée Globe competitor Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam!).
After eleven and a half hours in his liferaft since being forced to abandon his IMOCA 60 PRB in strong winds and big seas 840 nautical miles SW of Cape Town . . .
Escoffier was racing in third place on the 22nd day of the Vendée Globe solo round the world race in 25-30kts SW’ly winds and big seas when his boat nosedived into a wave and, he reported after his rescue, literally broke in two.
Escoffier described the moment the boat literally folded from the bow.
“You see the images of shipwrecks? It was like that, but worse. In four seconds the boat nosedived, the bow folded at 90°. “
“I put my head down in the cockpit, a wave was coming. I had time to send one text before the wave fried the electronics. It was completely crazy. It folded the boat in two. I’ve seen a lot before but this one . . .”
He had just minutes to grab his survival suit and take to his liferaft.
His boat’s emergency distress beacon was automatically activated.
The emergency signal was transmitted to CROSS Griz Nez which immediately alerted Vendée Globe Race Direction in Les Sables d’Olonne.
At the same time 40 year old Escoffier from Saint Malo, called his technical team with the terse message, ‘I need assistance. I am sinking. This is not a joke.’
Race Direction called on Jean Le Cam, the racer closest to PRB’s position, to divert his course immediately to the zone.
The veteran 61 year old who is on his fifth Vendée Globe race, arrived at around 16:15hrs UTC Monday and located Escoffier’s liferaft, establishing visual and voice contact despite the big seas and winds gusting to 35kts.
But Le Cam’s repeated initial efforts failed and Race Direction had to escalate the operation, calling for other competitors to divert to the scene.
Speaking on a video link this morning a relieved Le Cam said, “I told myself I would stay on standby and wait for daylight. Then I thought that in the dark it might be easier to see his light.”
“One moment when I was on deck I saw a flash, but in fact it was a reflection that glinted off a wave. But the more I got closer to the light I saw it more and more.”
“It is amazing because you switch from despair to an unreal moment in an instant.”
“I put myself to windward of him, I saw Kevin. Kevin asked me ‘will you be back?’ I said, ‘No we are doing this now!’”
“Then at one point the boat was falling backwards too fast in reverse and he was just there, two metres off the stern, I had prepared the red life ring that is usually in the cockpit.”
“I throw it to him, and he caught it and then he managed to pull himself in to catch the transmission bar (rudder link arm). And that was it.”
Asked this morning if he was scared or worried during his ordeal in his liferaft Escoffier replied,
“No. As soon as I had seen Jean I was sure I would be saved.”
Caraës praised his team and the collaboration of the rescue authorities and Jean-Jacques Laurent the CEO of PRB, a long time sponsor of entries into the Vendée Globe who was at Race HQ all night, assisting and supporting the mission.