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A Vendée Globe skipper who activated his emergency beacon and abandoned ship has been rescued some 840 nautical miles southwest of Cape Town.
Skipper Kevin Escoffier, 40, was racing in third place in the solo non-stop around the world race when his distress beacon was triggered Monday afternoon, forcing him to abandon his 60-foot racing boat in a life raft, race organizers said.
Fellow competitor Jean le Cam, who was nearest to the area at the time, was diverted to assist and reportedly located Escoffier at around 1615 hrs UTC in his life raft, making both visual and verbal contact with him, according to an update at 2200 hrs UTC. Unfortunately, Cam was unable to retrieve Escoffier in 5 meter seas and 20 to 25 knots winds and lost sight of him, the update said. Three other skippers were also diverted to the area to assist.
Organizers described the attempted rescue on the race’s website:
“As he was manoeuvring to prepare to get closer to the liferaft Le Cam lost sight of the liferaft and could not establish radio contact nor to pick up the signal from the AIS the range of which was reduced by the heavy seas.
“He lost sight of Escoffier in the dying light but has continued to try and locate him, Le Cam is communicating regularly with Race Direction and the rescue authorities. The three other skippers are now in, or are approaching the search area. The positioning of Kevin Escoffier’s personal beacon (AIS MOB Man Over Board) emits HF radiowaves and will only be detected in the local zone.”
An update said Escoffier was rescued by Le Cam at around 0118hrs UTC Tuesday – some 11.5 hours after entering his life raft.
Following his rescue, he reported that his boat nosedived into a wave and broke in half, giving him minutes to grab his survival suit and take to his liferaft.
The Vendee Globe, held every four years, is an endurance race that begins and ends in Les Sables D’Olonne in France.
Escoffier, part of team PRB, is an experienced skipper sailing a 18.28-meter Verdier-VPLP design boat that was launched in 2010.
“[Escoffier] was racing in a strong SW’ly air stream on starboard tack behind a weather front. At 1346hrs (UTC), he managed to send a message to his shore team, explaining that he had an ingress of water into his boat,” an earlier update said.
Le Cam recalled the rescue in a quote provided on the Venee Globe website:
“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 and lost sight of him.”
Le Cam continued:
“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.”
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