Top sailors react after dramatic rescue of Vendée Globe competitor

Following Kevin Escoffier's 11 hours in a life raft in freezing conditions, his rivals have highlighted how the incident has served as a wake-up call for them.

By Olympic Channel ·

Sailors from the Vendée Globe round-the-world solo boat race have given their rival Kevin Escoffier their support after he was rescued on Monday night.

The Frenchman's spent 11 hours in a life raft after abandoning his yacht when a wave ‘folded the boat in two’ near the notoriously choppy Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.

“What happened to Kevin was just terrifying. Those who weren’t close enough to go and aid searching for him, we were all waiting for news, hoping he would be found and OK, " Britain's Pip Hare told the Guardian.

"But the reality of doing something like this, one of the risks of any ocean sailing is if something happens you are far away from help. One of the incredible things about the Vendée Globe is because we are together, because we are racing, we have rescue resources closer at hand.”

German yachtsman Boris Hermann, who was involved in the rescue, said: "It was a shock for me, a big fear. I still need a bit of time to get back to the race in my head."

Frenchman Romain Attanasio highlighted that they all have a lesson to learn from the incident. He said: "I'm happy for Kevin, it's good news (that he was rescued). A broken boat in two is unbelievable. I think we've all had a wake-up call and we'll ease off a bit."

French sailor Isabelle Joschke explained how Escoffier's life was at high risk: "The wind slackened overnight, but the high has brought in polar air. It's very, very cold this morning. Kevin is in my thoughts. It's difficult to put into words but you have my wholehearted support."

Escoffier’s key rescuer was 61-year-old compatriot Jean Le Cam, who was himself rescued in this race by Vincent Riou in 2009 after spending 16 hours in his upturned yacht.

Le Cam was diverted to Escoffier by race organisers early on Tuesday, but strong winds meant that it took several attempts to successfully save Escoffier.

"I told myself I would stay on standby and wait for daylight. Then I thought that in the dark it might be easier to see his light," Le Cam told the Vendee Globe website.

"One moment when I was on deck I saw a flash, but in fact it was a reflection that glinted off a wave.

“But the more I got closer to the light I saw it more and more. It is amazing because you switch from despair to an unreal moment in an instant."

Escoffier said of his harrowing experience: "You see the images of shipwrecks? It was like that, but worse. In four seconds the boat nosedived, the bow folded at 90 degrees.

"I put my head down in the cockpit, a wave was coming. I had time to send one text before the wave fried the electronics. It was completely crazy."

“When I found myself on board with Jean, we hugged each other. He said to me: ‘You’re aboard. That was tricky!’ I replied: ‘I have spoilt your race. You were doing so well.’ He replied: ‘That doesn’t matter. Last time it was me who upset Vincent’s race'."

Race director Caraës praised collaboration of the rescue authorities who also assisted the rescue mission, saying: “It is the outcome we were hoping for. It was pitch black, not easy conditions but finally the outcome is almost a miracle.

“Jean is an extremely experienced sailor and he always followed our instructions to the letter. And we were lucky enough to have experts helping us on all sides. But we had lots of unknowns, lots of different positions. We had to be positive all the time and believe in things. We were lucky, luck was on our side. It is a very happy outcome."