“You fell in a good house”. It is with his customary humor that Jean Le Cam replied to Kevin Escoffier who thanked him on video from the edge of “Yes we cam” for having saved it from the raging waves more than a thousand kilometers from the coast of Cape Town. “ The last time it was my turn ”, added the oldest of the Vendée Globe fleet who, at the height of his 61 years, had himself been picked up off Cape Horn by his colleague Vincent Riou in 2010.
→ THE FACTS. Vendée Globe: Kevin Escoffier on his liferaft, Jean Le Cam is routed
Saved from the waters in 2009
Ironically in the history of ocean racing, the rescuer at the time, Vincent Riou, was sailing under the colors of the sponsor PRB, the same as that of Kevin Escoffier, whose dislocated boat drifts in hollows of five meters, under 40 knots of wind (75 km / h). These very harsh weather conditions explain the long wait the night before the good news of the rescue fell, around three in the morning, Tuesday 1 December.
Third in the race, in the process of catching up with second Thomas Rettant, Kevin Escoffier had triggered his distress beacon at the end of the afternoon, Monday 30. As is customary, the closest boats received the order to be diverted. In these places little frequented by merchant ships, it turns out that it was the other Vendée Globe competitors, Jean Le Cam first, then Yannick Bestaven, Boris Herrmann and Sébastien Simon. In these cases, the skippers have the authorization to blow up the seals preventing access to the onboard engine reserved for emergency cases, to go faster in the area.
Forced to take the plunge
The Cam quickly saw the liferaft, but the rescue operation was made difficult by very rough seas with 5-meter troughs preventing it from approaching too close to the small Escoffier raft. The latter finally grabbed a rope and jumped into the water to swim to the edge. Jean Le Cam will hand over his passenger as soon as possible to a rescue vessel that has left to meet “Yes we Cam”. As the other confused competitors will be able to resume their journey, the hours devoted to the rescue are deducted from their race time and taken into account in the final classification.
– Vendée Globe (@VendeeGlobe) December 1, 2020
The humor of Jean Le Cam was not enough to console Kevin Escoffier, who expressed his dismay in the short video sent to the organization. After spending nearly twelve hours in his liferaft, he apologized to his sponsor, without being able to really explain the reasons for the tragedy. As is often the case at sea, things happened very quickly: the front of PRB pitched violently into the bottom of a wave and the impact bent the structure, causing a significant water leak. Thrown into the cockpit, the skipper only had time to text his team. Before triggering the abandonment of the ship on the liferaft.
First rescue of this edition
This is the first rescue operation since the start of the race on November 8, which has only two withdrawals out of the 33 participants: that of Nicolas Troussel (Corum L’Épargne) on November 16 after a dismasting, and that from Briton Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) on November 28 due to damage to a rudder after structural problems. We avoided the worst that always threatens these adventurers. In the last edition, we came close to the tragedy with the shipwreck of Kito de Pavant in the Indian Ocean, which was finally recovered.
→ ANALYSIS. Vendée Globe: “The dismasting is the worst”
Three dead and many injured
Three men have lost their lives since the launch of the Vendée Globe in 1989, Nigel Burgess and Mike Plant 1992 (the second during the ferrying phase of his boat to the starting line) and Gerry Roufs in 1997. That year, Raphaël Dinelli had also seen death up close, stuck astride the hull of his overturned boat, while the lanyard connecting his life raft to the sailboat had broken. He had remained in this dramatic position 48 hours before another Vendée Globe competitor, Pete Goss, came to his aid
→ READ. Vendée Globe: these foils that make sailing more and more dangerous
Alongside these mediatized shipwrecks, there are those who fade away, eventually making us forget that ocean racing remains a dangerous sport despite the safety and spotting procedures which have improved a lot. Bertrand de Broc capsized in 1997, like Patrick de Radiguès in 2000 or Bernard Stamm in 2009. That year, Yann Eliès had experienced a 48-hour ordeal, his femur broken on his bunk before being rescued.