9th Vendée Globe
Tuesday 1st December 2020 – The Vendée Globe experienced its first crisis in the fourth week of racing with the successful rescue of Kevin Escoffier in the Roaring Forties. The PRB skipper was in 3rd place when he triggered his distress signal Monday afternoon and took to his lifeboat. He was found safe and sound by Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam) after several hours of searching. Vendée Globe Race Direction also decided to divert three other contestants sailing in the same area: Sébastien Simon (Arkea Paprec), Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV) and Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco).
Rescue operation off South Africa
Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam) arrived first at around 5.00pm and had established visual and voice contact with Kevin Escoffier (PRB) as night was falling. But the rough weather conditions made it particularly difficult. As he was manoeuvring to get closer to the life raft, Le Cam from Port-la-Forêt lost sight of Kevin Escoffier and could not pick up the signal from the AIS (distress buoy). Hours were passing and uncertainty growing. Many manœuvres later, he saw a flash of light in the distance and understood that everything would happen very quickly.
Meanwhile, Race Direction had decided to divert three other boats: Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV), Sébastien Simon (ARKEA PAPREC) and Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer – Yacht de Monaco). Today, Tuesday, during a radio session, the German skipper Boris Herrmann explained what he had been doing over the last 24 hours: “I was very focused on my task and had a search sector that I had to search very closely – with 600 metres between passages. One passage took me an hour. So it would have taken 15 to 20 hours to search the entire search field that was assigned to me. At this moment, of course, one realises how large the search field is and that one is looking for a needle in a haystack. I was very motivated and looked in all the right places as best I could.
“It was extremely cold with high swell and spray coming over the deck. But it was great to see that the regatta management diverted all the boats that were available nearby and that we were able to search together with a fleet. So we gave luck every chance and luck finally led to Kevin being found. This is a great relief and now the tension is dropping. Of course there is also a certain sadness and the thoughts are with him. I am already back to my normal race, but I am not yet back to where the race is with my head.”
An anxious Pierre Casiraghi, YCM Vice-President and driving force behind the Monegasque initiative, has been following developments very closely: “It can all happen so quickly in these kinds of sea and wind conditions. It was a very delicate operation. My main concern was to tell Boris to be extra careful in such an extreme situation. Above all it was important not to add to the crisis by creating a second one. What a relief to know that Kevin is now safe and I salute Jean’s courage and experience which made this rescue possible”.
Interview of Boris Herrmann to be found below:
Survivor in extremis
He had just entered the Roaring Forties when his epic race came to an end. It took only a couple of minutes. Kevin Escoffier (PRB) just had time to see the extent of the damage before alerting his team “I’m sinking, it’s no joke. MAYDAY”.
Wearing his survival suit, he jumped into the water and into his life raft before watching his boat sinking. He was several hundred miles from Cape of Good Hope.
Later, the skipper explained that PRB had been enveloped in a wave at 27 knots. The stern was under water and the bow pointing skywards before it broke in two forward of the mast bulkhead. Tossed around by a raging sea and 35-knot gale for 11 hours, the skipper was finally rescued in the middle of the night by the doyen of the race, Jean Le Cam, aged 61.
The Race Direction must now decide under what conditions Kevin Escoffier (PRB) can return to shore, but also how to manage the loss of precious hours of racing for those who were diverted.
To follow the race: www.ycm.org or https://team-malizia.com