Skip to content

Solo Sailor in Distress in Vendée Globe

IMOCA 60 PRB Taking on Water

Kevin Escoffier, positioned some 550 miles southwest of Cape Town in the Vendée Globe solo nonstop around-the-world race, has triggered his distress beacon. He was racing his IMOCA 60 PRB in a strong southwesterly air stream on starboard tack behind a weather front. The 40-year-old Frenchman was in third place.

Kevin Escoffier
Kevin Escoffier aboard PRB during the race.
© 2020 Kevin Escoffier / PRB

At 1346 hours UTC today, Escoffier sent a message to his shore team, explaining that he had an ingress of water into his boat. The rescue authorities (MRCC Cape Town and CROSS Griz Nez) are preparing an action plan in collaboration with his PRB shore team and the Vendée Globe race direction team. The closest competitor, Jean Le Cam on Yes We Cam!, has changed course to sail to the last position given by the boat when the beacon was triggered (40°55′ S, 9°18′ E). Le Cam is expected to reach the area at around 1600 hours UTC today.

Alex Thomson Is Out

On Day 20 of the race, Saturday the 28th, British sailor Alex Thomson had to withdraw. The starboard rudder of Hugo Boss sustained damage on Friday evening. This insurmountable problem occurred almost exactly one week after Thomson discovered extensive cracking in the longitudinal framing toward the bow.

Hugo Boss
Hugo Boss, as seen during Thomson’s delivery from Portsmouth, UK, to Les Sables-d’Olonne, France, in October.
© 2020 Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images

He headed for Cape Town, 1,800 miles to his east-northeast, making around 7 knots under reduced sail on Saturday afternoon. His team announced that he is no longer racing in the Vendée Globe.

After making extensive remedial repairs to the bow, working through the nights of Sunday to Thursday last week, Thomson had just declared himself back in the race and at the gateway to the Southern Ocean. His IMOCA 60 was designed to be best in the fast downwind conditions in the ‘Big South’. He was in 15th place some 650 miles behind fleet leader Charlie Dalin on Apivia.

One of the two favorites to win this ninth Vendée Globe, Thomson placed third in the 2012-13 edition and finished second in 2016-17 after fighting back from being 48 hours behind eventual winner Armel Le Cléac’h at Cape Horn. In 2017 Thomson succumbed to exhaustion and came in 16 hours behind his French rival.

Dismasted IMOCA in port
Nicolas Troussel’s Corum L’Epargne is safely moored in Mindelo, Cape Verde Islands, after having dismasted on November 19, as we reported in a previous post.
© 2020 DR

Vendée Leaders Turn Left

As of this writing on Monday morning, Charlie Dalin on Apivia is about due south of the Cape of Good Hope. He holds a comfortable lead over Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut, 241 miles back. The majority of the fleet has now dipped into the Roaring Forties. Apivia is sailing in 30-knot winds on 15-ft seas. The top female sailor is Samantha Davies on Initiatives-Coeur in 11th place (after subtracting PRB from the standings). Fellow Englishwoman Pip Hare on Medallia is sailing in 22nd place (after also subtracting Hugo Boss). You may recall that we introduced our readers to Hare in the August issue of Latitude 38. Jérémie Beyou on Charal, another pre-race favorite, continues to try to catch up with the rest of the pack. He returned to Les Sables-d’Olonne early in the race to make rig and rudder repairs, but he was able to restart within the time allowed.

Charal at sunset
Charal’s restart on November 17.
© 2020 Olivier Blanchet / Alea

Gitana Abandons Jules Verne Attempt

On Friday, after three days at sea on their first round-the-world record attempt, co-skippers Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier and crew interrupted their circumnavigation. The boat collided with a UFO on Thursday, rendering it impossible for the crew to sail the damaged trimaran Maxi Edmond de Rothschild at her full potential. The collision occurred when the 105-ft trimaran was running downwind at 30+ knots between the Azores and Madeira. The sailors turned toward home, 1,900 miles away in Lorient, France. Meanwhile, Thomas Colville and crew on Sodebo Ultim 3 have slipped south of the equator and continue on their quest for the Trophée Jules Verne. Team Gitana wished them well.


  1. Joseph DiMatteo, PE 3 years ago

    As a sailor and engineer I love the technology of the foiling boats. I loved watching the foiling GP boats on San Fran Bay. BUT these boats are totally unsuited, and I would go further in saying they are unseaworthy, for an offshore race like the Vendee. It would be like showing up for the Baja 1000 here in Ensenada with a Formula 1 race car. I hope to see a recap when it is all over of how much money, if any, is expended by countries around the world in rescuing failed entries. I would also be interested to hear if a race like this would be allowed to start in New Zealand given their process of inspecting boats for seaworthiness before they are allowed to leave NZ.

  2. Christine Weaver 3 years ago

    Joseph — I love the image of the F1 cars racing in the Baja 1000. We’ll have a report on Escoffier’s rescue in tomorrow’s ‘Lectronic Latitude (Wednesday, December 2, 2020).

Leave a Comment

The Bay Area Waterfront
Runoff and debris flowed into the Estuary forcing firefighters to pause their efforts to control the blaze that engulfed the former Cryer & Sons Boatyard building.
Sponsored Post
Complete your ASA IQCs at MSC! Our new instructors receive 100% tuition reimbursement for each clinic after teaching their first course at the level.
Lucky Find in November Issue
As a retired US Army Corps of Engineers LTC, Len was always appreciative of friends sending him new Latitude 38s whenever he was deployed.