Please select your home edition
Edition
Cyclops 2020 - SmartlinkNano - LEADERBOARD

Kevin Escoffier: 'The boat folded at 90 degrees'

by Vendée Globe 1 Dec 2020 00:45 PST 1 December 2020
PRB skipper Kevin Escoffier aboard Jean Le Cam's YesWeCam after being rescued in the Vendée Globe © Jean Le 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, Vendée Globe skipper Kevin Escoffier was dramatically rescued by fellow competitor Jean Le Cam at around 0118hrs UTC this Tuesday morning.

Escoffier was racing in third place on the 22nd day of the Vendée Globe solo round the world race in 25-30kts SWly winds and big seas when his boat nosedived into a wave and, he reported after his rescue, literally broke in two, giving him 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, a very experienced southern ocean racer who has won the crewed Volvo Ocean Race and held the Trophée Jules Verne record for the crewed speed record round the world, called his technical team with the terse message "I need assistance. I am sinking. This is not a joke."

Warning: This video (understandably) contains some swearing

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 1615hrs UTC and located Escoffier's liferaft, establishing visual and voice contact despite the big, unruly seas and winds gusting to 35kts.

But Le Cam's repeated initial efforts failed and Race Direction had to escalate the operation.

Remarkably it was hours later, only when Escoffier appeared in the background of a video call that Le Cam had left running through the entire proceedure, that Race Direction fully realised Le Cam had rescued the stricken solo racer.

Because of the pitch black night and the bad wind and sea conditions, Race Direction requested three other skippers to divert to the rescue zone, Germany's Germany's Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco), Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV) and Sébastien Simon (ARKEA PAPREC).

Race Direction drew up a search protocol using Meteo France's MOTHY (Modèle Océanique de Transport d'HYdrocarbures). drift prediction programme and engaged the three solo skippers in a triangle search pattern. They had intermittent distress beacon signals which appeared to follow no pattern.

Race Director Jacques Caraës explained, "We always had a signal. The only position we were getting was the MOB but we did not know if it was attached to Kevin as it appeared to be quite random and moving a lot from one place to another. And so we did not know if the EPIRB was in the liferaft or close to the boat or what. At some point we thought we thought the EPIRB could be in the liferaft, it could be with him, the EPRB could be drifting in the water or it could be attached to the IMOCA (yacht). And so it was not easy. But when we saw that the EPIRB position was lining up with the drift prediction track we sent Jean to that point."

"We had organised a triangle search scan pattern with Yannick Bestaven, who went seven miles away, then Boris was closer and Sébastien was closer. They did seven miles across by 0.3 of a mile apart on each scan. They sailed with three reefs. Jean Le Cam recommended that because it was a battle. The wind was dropping a bit. But at the beginning when Jean saw Kevin the weather was bad. Jean did seven scans."

Speaking on a video link this morning a relieved Le Cam said, "I arrived, it was all good, I saw him. Kevin in his liferaft. Because I had a good position. I told him I will be back there was no need to rush things. I had just the main with two reefs in 30-32 knots with the rough seas it was not easy to manoeuvre. I came back to the spot where I left him but there was no one there. I went there (looking for him) five or six times which means I had to tack five or six times because of the mishaps that happened all the time, the sea state and so on, I ended up going backwards."

"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, and thank goodness I had prepared the red life ring that is usually in the cockpit. I throw it to him, and he catches it.I threw him the life ring. And he caught it and then he managed to pull himself in to catch the transmission bar (rudder link arm). And that was it."

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 degrees. 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..."

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,

"It is the outcome we were hoping for. It was pitch black, not easy conditions but finally the outcome is almost a miracle. It was not easy to pick Kevin up in the middle of the night, Jean is an extremely experienced sailor and he always followed our instructions to the letter. And we were lucky enough to have experts helping us on all sides, Meteo France with their drift simulation programme that corresponded with our EPIRB tracking. But we had lots of unknowns, lots of different positions. We had to be positive all the time and believe in things. We were lucky, luck was on our side. It is a very happy outcome and we at Race Direction are very happy."

This amazing rescue reverses roles played out between 5th and 6th January 2009, during the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe. Vincent Riou, the then the skipper of PRB, rescued Jean Le Cam from his upturned IMOCA 60 which had capsized 200 miles west of Cape Horn. Le Cam was trapped inside his upturned VM Materiaux for 16 hours during which time it was not known for certain if Le Cam was safe inside his boat or not.

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."

Find out more...

Related Articles

Vendée Globe Day 76: Dalin, Burton & Hermann lead
Three Musketeers strike out for Vendée Globe victory? With just five days or under 2000 miles to go until the first skippers finish the ninth edition of the Vendée Globe the outcome still hangs in the balance. Posted on 22 Jan
Vendée Globe Day 76 morning update
Burton's option pays, now up to second Louis Burton, now up to second, is starting to see his westerly route pay a dividend. He has negotiated the western side of the high pressure zone quickest and into the weekend should see his gains continue, sailing faster and back on a more direct route Posted on 22 Jan
Vendée Globe Day 75: Dalin's lead at 77 miles
All Quiet on the Western Front? The relative silence from among the leaders speaks volumes. Increasingly background activities are pared back to only what is necessary as the solo skippers devote all their energies to weather strategy, keeping fast and managing their energy reserves. Posted on 21 Jan
Vendée Globe Day 75 morning update
Can a corner be cut? For the leaders who are 1000 or so miles SSW of the Azores this morning this stretch of the Atlantic is not as cooperative as it was forecast to be. Posted on 21 Jan
Vendée Globe Day 74: Seven days to destiny
Louis Burton could benefit from his position further west but has been slowed for two rankings The race at the front of the Vendée Globe is electrifying. None of the eight previous editions has ever witnessed a race finish as open and intense. Posted on 20 Jan
Vendée Globe Day 74 morning update
Charlie Dalin 'I need to be in good shape for this last bit' The leader is not overly worried. He expects to reconnect with Louis Burton - who is to leeward and working NW - as they reach the south of the Azores. But the final stage seems more complex in a SW'ly wind which needs to be utilised at the best angles. Posted on 20 Jan
Vendée Globe Day 73: Happy, Super Happy
Charlie Dalin leads and Louis Burton carries on to the North West The Vendée Globe remains wide open. A leading group of nine skippers form the vanguard with a slight advantage for two skippers, Charlie Dalin and Louis Burton. Posted on 19 Jan
Vendée Globe Day 73 morning update
Fast and low or high and slower? After more than 25,000 miles of racing this Vendée Globe hangs in the balance. Who will win? At the head of the fleet now Charlie Dalin has been in first place 178 times since November 8th when the race started, Louis Burton has been in first twice Posted on 19 Jan
Vendée Globe Day 72: Climbing to a final battle
Fast Burton and consistent Dalin's northwards duel in the trades, Herrmann's hard 24hrs With less than two weeks - perhaps even just ten days - until the finish of what is set to be the closest ever edition of the Vendée Globe it is still impossible to predict which three skippers will finish on the podium. Posted on 18 Jan
Vendée Globe Day 72 morning update
Burton on the button, first out Doldrums It seems to be Louis Burton on Bureau Vallée who has finally escaped from the Doldrums first. He has been making a consistent 17kts early this morning in the 16-18kts NE'ly trade winds which seem to be well established. Posted on 18 Jan
Official-Collection-Navy 728x90 BOTTOMC-Tech 2020 Battens 2 728x90 BOTTOMHenri-Lloyd 2021 INEOS TEAM UK - FOOTER