French skipper rescued by fellow competitor Jean Le Cam after being forced to abandon his yacht

Kevin Escoffier, the 40-year-old skipper of PRB, was rescued by fellow competitor Jean Le Cam this morning, after spending 12 hours in his liferaft off the coast of South Africa.

Escoffier had to abandon his damaged IMOCA 60 yesterday afternoon at 1346hrs UTC and took to his liferaft 840 nautical miles southwest of Cape Town.

After a 12-hour search, he was spotted via video link onboard Le Cam’s boat, Yes We Cam!, wearing a survival suit. The words, “He’s on board with Jean!” were received with great relief by Escoffier’s, friends family and his fellow competitors on the solo, non-stop, round-the-world race.

“It has been a horrific few hours for everyone,” says British competitor Pip Hare in her blog this morning. “Something like this certainly brings this risk that we have chosen to take into sharp reality.”

The rescue mission was coordinated from Les Sables d’Olonne in collaboration with CROSS Griz Nez and MRCC South Africa, after Kevin’s position was sent by the onboard EPIRB distress beacon. Météo France’s drift simulation also delivered a trace. Le Cam set off at 0015 but found no-one in the location. He then resumed his journey southeast for an hour under very reduced sail (3 reefs in the mainsail and no engine). He was being traced by Vendée Globe race director Jacques Caraës.

“He disappeared from the screen when suddenly we heard him talk,” says Caraës. “We no longer saw anyone. Then, a few minutes after 0106 Jean went back down to the chart table and then we saw Kevin arrive behind his back in a survival suit. They both appeared fit seconds before the video cut. He is fine. Everyone is well. They are recovering!”

Jean Le Cam knows only too well the dangers of offshore racing, having himself been rescued during the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe. On January 6 Vincent Riou, the then-skipper of PRB, rescued Jean Le Cam from his upturned IMOCA 60, which capsized at Cape Horn. Now, the 61-year-old, five-times Vendée Globe racer, Le Cam, had the chance to ‘pay it forward’ by rescuing 40-year-old Saint Malo skipper, Escoffier.

The Vendee Globe is the world’s toughest sailing race. The 21,638-mile race set sail from Les Sables d’Olonne on November 8 with 33 boats, four of them British skippers, including Yachting World columnist Pip Hare and Hugo Boss poster-boy Alex Thomson, who has since retired.

Watch an interview with Hubert Lemonnier, assistant race director:

You can read about Pip Hare’s journey from childhood folkboats to round-the-world racing here.