Vendée Update: Escoffier Rescued in Southern Ocean

Author:
Publish date:

Around 1345 UTC on Monday afternoon, Vendee Globe competitor Kevin Escoffier (PRB) activated his EPIRB 840 miles southeast of The Cape of Good Hope, in the heart of the Southern Ocean amid some of the most violent water anywhere on Earth. Shortly after, he managed to get a message to his team: “I’m sinking. This is not a joke.”

The boat had hit a wave going 27 knots and with a loud bang, snapped just ahead of the mast bulkhead. In seconds, it was flooded with water.

Race management immediately hailed the nearest skipper, Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam!). Le Cam diverted his course to Escoffier’s last known position, but it would take nearly two hours for him to reach it. With the help of drift calculations, he began his search. PRB was gone, but Le Cam quickly found Escoffier aboard his liferaft, and they exchanged a few words.

However, the sea state made it impossible for Le Cam to pick him up without a maneuver that would cause him to lose sight of the liferaft. Fans of the Vendée Globe anxiously waited for news, but all that came was an announcement that Yannick Bestaven (Maître Coq IV) and Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club De Monaco) were being diverted to assist. Speculation online was rampant, but one thing was on everyone’s mind: they wouldn’t send more boats unless there was difficulty finding Escoffier.

An hour later, Sebastien Simon (ARKEA PAPREC) was rerouted as well.

The high waves made AIS transmissions impossible, it was blowing 24kts and night was setting in. Le Cam was sailing with three reefs in and his emergency motor unsealed, but there was no guarantee that the weather would calm down enough to get Escoffier onboard.

“Being in a raft in 35 knots of wind is not reassuring,” Escoffier says. “I was only reassured when I saw Jean. But the problem was to find a way to get on board with him. We said a few words. It was a real battlefield out on the water. He was forced to move away, but I could see he remained close by.”

Finally, in the early morning, Le Cam was able to throw Escoffier a line. Despite 12ft waves and the fact he was wearing a survival suit, Escoffier managed to climb aboard.

“When I found myself on board with Jean, we hugged each other,” Escoffier says. “He said to me. ‘Shit you’re aboard. That was tricky!’ I replied, ‘I have spoilt your race. You were doing so well.’ He replied, ‘That doesn’t matter. Last time it was me who upset Vincent’s race.’”

Le Cam was referencing a similar incident during the 2009 Vendée Globe during which he’d been on the receiving end of a rescue by Vincent Riou. As always, the comradery between solo sailors is the epitome of seamanship, willingly sacrificing years of campaigning and training to help someone who’d been an opponent up until a moment earlier.

Meanwhile, lost for the moment amid the headlines about Escoffier was this weekend’s announcement that former race favorite Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) had retired from the race. After leading the fleet across the Equator and toward the Southern Ocean, Thomson noticed structural problems with his boat, which had been custom-built for this race. He attempted a repair on the water, but when he lost a rudder as well, was forced to call it quits.

Escoffier was in third place at the time of the sinking, and the fourth through seventh place boats were all diverted to assist with the search. Coupled with Thomson’s abandonment and frontrunner Jérémie Beyou’s (Charal) forced return to Les Sables d’Olonne, it seems that the front of the pack is a risky spot to be. Perhaps the leading boats are being pushed too hard or the new builds don’t have enough miles under their keels to be properly tested. Either way, it’s quickly becoming apparent that the way to win this Vendée Globe is to shoot for 11th and wait for the first 10 boats to drop out. This is one race where there are no guarantees.

To follow the race tracker, click here

December 2020

Related

BoatTalk-2048

VIDEO: Sailing Not just for Millionaires

Sailing and boating can come with a hefty price tag, but there are plenty of ways to get on the water without breaking the bank. In this episode of Boat Talk, SAIL's managing editor Lydia Mullan and Power & Motor Yacht's executive editor Charlie Levine share tips on getting out ...read more

Cornell-2048x

Elcano Challenge Resurrected

In late 2020, sailing legend Jimmy Cornell set off on his Elcano Challenge, a green-powered circumnavigation aboard the custom Outremer Aventura Zero. Unfortunately, shortly after setting out, the boat encountered major power-generation issues. "I took the decision to turn ...read more

F8V-BOOK-for-SAIL---1

Book Review: The Figure 8 Voyage

“What is the color of the ocean that rolls beneath Pacific trades? How does a wave curl and crash at 47 degrees south? Can an albatross remain awing in the worst of weathers?” Randall Reeves has always found images to be the most compelling part of the stories we tell about the ...read more

AC210117cb_23806

VIDEO: Capsize in the Prada Cup

American Magic's Patriot capsized during day three of the Prada Cup. If you haven't yet watched the catastrophe unfold with your own eyes, check out the above video or any number of others that are circulating on social media. It's truly a tip that has to be seen to be believed. ...read more

210115-AC36

Prada Cup: Brits Take First Two Races

Who saw that coming? After getting skunked in December, INEOS Team UK has swept the first two races in the Prada Cup elimination series of the 36th America’s Cup  Racing took place on racecourse “C,” sheltered between Auckland’s North Head and Bastion Point to take advantage of ...read more

ac-2048x

Hutchinson: 36th America’s Cup will be a Close On

On the eve of the Prada Cup challenger series, the official start of the 36th America’s Cup, New York Yacht Club American Magic skipper Terry Hutchinson says it’s anyone’s game. "As we've seen in the last week, everyone's gotten faster," said Hutchinson said at the event’s ...read more

Episode1_Thumbnail4_00000_00000_00000_00000

Sailing Docuseries Released Online

Endless Media's Reaching Reality is the story of three friends, a 24-foot sailboat and 1,200 miles. With candor and humor, this series proves that you don't need to be an expert or a millionaire to cast off on the journey of a lifetime. Produced by Emmy-award winner Barry ...read more

01-LEAD-nder-sail-3

Prepping for a Transatlantic

Growing up on the coast of northern England, I dreamed about crossing oceans on my own boat. Like most of us, though, education, a family and a career took precedence, and before I knew it, we had mortgages, young children and endless work obligations. We also became landlocked, ...read more