Round-the-world sailor’s yacht snaps in HALF after being hit by towering wave before rival racer turns BACK and miraculously plucks him from the ocean
- French sailor Kevin Escoffier, 40, was forced to abandon his yacht on Monday
- He had been competing in the Vendée Globe round-the-world race
- His nearest competitor, veteran sailor Jean le Cam, was diverted to rescue him
A round-the-world sailor whose yacht was snapped in half by a towering wave has apologised to his rival who turned back and miraculously plucked him from the Atlantic.
French sailor Kevin Escoffier, 40, was forced to abandon his yacht on Monday afternoon after it snapped in half while racing in high waves and strong winds some 840 nautical miles South West of Cape Town, South Africa.
He had been competing in the Vendée Globe, a single-handed non-stop round-the-world yacht race, when the incident happened.
French sailor Kevin Escoffier, 40, (pictured) was forced to abandon his yacht on Monday afternoon
A round-the-world sailor whose yacht was snapped in half by a towering wave has apologised to his rival who turned back and miraculously plucked him from the Atlantic. Kevin Escoffier and Jean le Cam are pictured together above
His carbon-fibre boat PRB crashed into a wave at a speed of 27 knots and split into two, giving Escoffier an estimated two minutes before he was washed off the boat.
He managed to climb into his lifteraft which had automatically inflated.
The racer closest to Escoffier, veteran sailor Jean le Cam, 61, was alerted and immediately diverted his boat, named ‘Yes We Cam!’, to help him.
He was able to locate Escoffier, whose emergency beacon had been activated, two hours later at around 4.15pm.
Le Cam established visual and vocal contact with him, but due to the high waves and strong winds of up to 35 knots could not get close enough to help him and eventually lost sight of him.
The racer closest to Escoffier, veteran sailor Jean le Cam, 61, was alerted and immediately diverted his boat. File image of Le Cam above
Race Direction in Les Sables d’Olonne diverted three other skippers, Frenchmen Yannick Bestaven and Sebastien Simon and Germany’s Boris Hermann, to join in the search as it began to grow dark on Monday evening.
Le Cam eventually located Escoffier again after he spotted a reflected beam of light bouncing off a wave. ‘The closer to the light I got, the clearer I saw it,’ he told the Vendée Race Committee. ‘It is amazing because you switch from despair to an unreal moment in an instant.’
He rescued Escoffier from his lifteraft at 1.18am on Tuesday morning.
The French sailor said of the rescue: ‘When I found myself on board with Jean, we hugged each other.
‘He said to me: ‘Shit, you’re aboard. That was tricky!”
French skipper Jean Le Cam sails aboard his Imoca Yes we cam before taking the start of the Vendee Globe solo around-the-world sailing race in Les Sables-d’Olonne, western France, on November 8
Skippers Yannick Bestaven and Sebastien Simon were among the racers sent to assist the rescue operation
‘I replied: ‘I have spoilt your race. You were doing so well.”
Le Cam replied: ‘That doesn’t matter. Last time it was me who upset Vincent’s race.’
Le Cam was rescued from his upturned Imoca which had capsized 200 miles west of Cape Horn during the 2008-09 Vendée Globe by French sailor Vincent Riou.
When he was asked if was frightened during the incident, Escoffier replied: ‘No. As soon as I saw Jean I was sure I would be saved.’
All competitors involved in the recovery will now return to the race.
Time compensations for the skippers whose races were interrupted by the rescue mission will be discussed by the International Jury in the coming days.
Race organisers said both sailors appeared well and that the successful rescue operation was a ‘huge relief’.