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Vendée Globe Sees Dramatic Rescue on the High Seas

Jean Le Cam’s fifth participation in the Vendée Globe is rapidly turning into a nearly mythical performance to be remembered. As if running among the leaders in a nearly 14-year-old non-foiling boat weren’t enough, the 61-year-old Le Cam has now added a rescue at sea to his stat sheet for this edition of the solo nonstop around-the-world race.

PRB sailing
The VPLP-designed IMOCA 60 PRB has reportedly been lost at sea after breaking in half while racing in the Vendée Globe. Launched in 2010 and formerly under the stewardship of skipper Vincent Riou, PRB has been a frontrunner in the fleet for nearly a decade. She was known as the lightest IMOCA in the fleet. Whether ultra-lightweight construction, constant use, and extensive modifications ultimately led to her destruction will certainly be discussed at great length.
© 2020 Yann Riou

Sailor in Distress

At approximately 1346 UTC on Monday afternoon, while sailing in third place 550 miles southwest of Cape Town, Kevin Escoffier’s yacht PRB nosedived into a wave and “literally broke into two,” according to the 40-year-old veteran ocean racer. One of the onboard EPIRBs activated itself automatically and sent PRB’s position to the race committee. Escoffier sent one concise message to his team: “I need assistance. I am sinking. This is not a joke.” With very few details available to him at the time, fourth-place Jean Le Cam immediately sprang into action and altered his course slightly to meet with Escoffier and attempt to offer assistance.

The Rescue

Once on the scene, with no headsail and a deeply reefed mainsail, Le Cam was able to locate the beleaguered PRB skipper despite the 15-ft-tall breaking waves and strong southwesterly winds. With night falling and Le Cam eventually losing sight of Escoffier, the race organizers sent three more skippers to the area to conduct a triangular search pattern. Miraculously, after seven scans in the area, Le Cam reestablished visual and voice contact with Escoffier and his liferaft in the middle of the night.

“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 backward, 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 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.”

With Escoffier safely on board Yes We Cam!, the duo are again sailing in close contact with several other boats in the fleet. The race director is reportedly planning for Le Cam to transfer Escoffier onto a French navy frigate at the Kerguelen Islands, but this has yet to be confirmed by the authorities.

Jean Le Cam waves
The hero of the early stages of this edition of the Vendée Globe, ‘King’ Jean Le Cam is having a stellar race. Since running up front, and now rescuing a stricken skipper from a liferaft, Le Cam has even received the praises of French president Emmanuel Macron, who expressed his great admiration for Le Cam in a phone call. Ironically, when Jean Le Cam lost a keel bulb and capsized in the 2008-09 Vendée Globe, the old PRB and his close friend and rival Vincent Riou came to his rescue.
© 2020 Vendée Globe

More Damage

While third-placed PRB has now sunk, pre-race favorite Alex Thomson and Hugo Boss are headed to Cape Town with the loss of a rudder, making retirement inevitable. Just a day after resuming racing following major structural repairs, Thomson’s fifth Vendée Globe has now come to a close. Another pre-race favorite has also recently faltered. Sebastien Simon on Arkea Paprec hit a UFO and destroyed a foil and casing, which have proved to be the Achilles heel on his new Juan K design. Now sailing at reduced speed, Simon looks destined to tumble down the rankings.

Damaged foil
Arkea Paprec is just the latest yacht in the race to sustain major damage. Skipper Sebastien Simon has just posted this photo of a destroyed foil and casing, as a result of striking a UFO.
© 2020 Sebastien Simon

The Fleet Leaders

Alone at the front of the fleet, Charlie Dalin and Apivia continue to lead the race across the Indian Ocean. Louis Burton on Bureau Vallée 2 is in second place 250 miles astern. Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut rounds out the top three. Previously running in third and then fourth place, Jean Le Cam and Yes We Cam! are currently in seventh place following the rescue of Kevin Escoffier. Again sailing at full speed, Le Cam is already working his way back up in the rankings. He’ll also be due redress from the international jury, which should convene shortly to discuss Le Cam’s fate.


  1. michael a cropper 3 years ago

    Thanks for all the news, we who live in the mountains on Montana, look back to all the years of Latitude 38 before biting the bullet and swallowing the anchor! Michael

  2. Vince Casalaina 3 years ago

    I met Le Cam a few years ago when he was sailing the Bay on Hydroptor. His skills were impressive then. The full description of this amazing rescue that can be found on the Vendee Globe website along with video of Le Cam and Escoffier on board Yes we Cam are well worth the time to view.

  3. Jose Kanusee 3 years ago

    Is it still considered a race if the relatively fragile speedsters all breakdown and no one finishes?

  4. Don Cavers 3 years ago

    The IMOC fleet is a very impressive one. It isn’t at all unusual to have boats break in the Southern Ocean and this race is no exception. What should be of concern is that most of the damage is caused by UFO’s in the water, often shipping containers. The shipping industry loses nearly 300 a year and seem to consider it an acceptable percentage. I think you’ll see more of the next generation designs having fully retractable and/or above water casings like on Initiatives Couer.

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