In the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe solo round-the-world race, Jean LeCam’s Imoca 60 capsized 200 miles west of Cape Horn, trapping him inside for 16 hours. He was rescued by Vincent Riou, the skipper of the Imoca 60 PRB.
On Monday, almost twelve years later, the rescued became the rescuer when Le Cam plucked the 2020 skipper of PRB, Kevin Escoffier, out of his life raft, in a dramatic rescue, 840 miles south west of Cape Town, South Africa.
Escoffier’s foiling Imoca 60 PRB had snapped in half on Sunday when it slammed into a wave at 27 knots while competing in this year’s Vendée Globe solo round-the-world race. Escoffier said the bow bent up at a 90-degree angle and that he only had seconds to send a text before his electronics were fried by the incoming water.
“I didn’t have time to do anything,” Kevin Escoffier said. “I just had time to send a message to my team. ‘I’m sinking, I’m not joking. MAYDAY.’”
Escoffier abandoned ship and took to his life raft. Race management used an EPIRB signal and drift prediction software to put Le Cam in a position to locate Escoffier.
It took Le Cam multiple attempts to get Escoffier on board, at one point losing sight of him for hours, and finally retrieving him in the dark in 25 knot winds while slowing his boat to 1.5 knots with a triple-reefed main. Spotting the life raft a second time, Le Cam’s boat reversed to within 6 feet of Escoffier. Le Cam tossed a life ring to his fellow Frenchman and hauled him on board.
Afterwards, in a video transmitted from Le Cam’s boat, Escoffier can be seen alternately joking with his rescuer and wrought with emotion, knowing he may have ruined Le Cam’s chances of winning the race and also coming very close to losing his own life.
Vendée Globe race management will have to get Escoffier off his rescuer’s boat so Le Cam can continue the solo race alone. Le Cam will be credited for the time he lost while retrieving Escoffier. Meanwhile, Escoffier will merely be a passenger. Race rules do not allow him to assist Le Cam in sailing the boat.
You can read a more detailed report in The Guardian.