Search is on for Vendée Globe skipper

Published on November 30th, 2020

(November 30, 2020; Day 23) – It was a day of drama for the Vendée Globe as Kevin Escoffier, 40, triggered his distress beacon while in a strong SW’ly air stream on starboard tack behind a weather front.

Escoffier was in third place in the solo non-stop around the world race, some 840 nautical miles SW of Cape Town, when his boat PRB got into difficulties and he was forced to take to his liferaft.

He alerted his technical team at 1346hrs UTC this afternoon, telling them he had significant amounts of water coming into the boat and immediately triggered his yacht’s distress beacon. PRB was positioned at 40deg55S 9deg16E at the time the distress beacon was activated.

Race Direction of the Vendée Globe alerted MRCC Cape Town and CROSS Griz Nez who have been collaborating in a rescue operation. The skipper closest to Escoffier’s position, Jean Le Cam, who is competing on his fifth Vendée Globe, immediately responded to the request to divert to Escoffier’s position.

Guided by Race Direction, Le Cam arrived on zone around 1615hrs UTC and quickly established visual and voice contact with Escoffier who was in his liferaft but he was unable to retrieve him in the big, 5m, seas and 20-25 knot winds.

As he was maneuvering to prepare to get closer to the liferaft, Le Cam lost sight of the liferaft and could not establish radio contact nor to pick up the signal from the AIS the range of which was reduced by the heavy seas.

He lost sight of Escoffier in the dying light but has continued to try and locate him, and is communicating regularly with Race Direction and the rescue authorities.

Race Direction also had enlisted the assistance of three other competing skippers – Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco), Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV) and Sébastien Simon (ARKEA PAPREC) to help Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam!) in the mission to retrieve Escoffier.

As of 22:00, the three other skippers are now in, or are approaching the search area. The positioning of Escoffier’s personal beacon (AIS Man Over Board) emits HF radiowaves but will only be detected in the local zone.

A grid search area for the zone has been established and will be carried out by the four IMOCAs to find and recover Escoffier.

The PRB shore crew said that besides his AIS MOB, Escoffier also means to signal his presence in the liferaft. Daybreak tomorrow morning is around 0340hrs UTC in this zone and the search will be ongoing.

Meanwhile, Charlie Dalin continues to lead the fleet, noting how his 2019 Verdier-design IMOCA is proving to be well suited for the southern latitude conditions.

“The closed in cockpit was designed specially for sailing in the Southern Ocean, where it is colder and conditions more hostile,” said Dalin.

“Being sheltered from the spray and the wind contributes to my performance as I can trim the sails with less clothing on more frequently and more quickly than if I had to put on my foulies all the time. We even decided to place the winches as close as possible to the opening so that I can ease a sail quickly from inside.”

Positioned to the north, Dalin is facing a challenging stretch as he passes under the Cape of Good Hope. “A lot of sailors have told me this is the trickiest stretch in the Vendée Globe and looking at the two storms ahead, I think their forecasts were right. In the coming days, it is more a matter of being a good sailor than a racer. You have to get rested and ensure the boat is not damaged in the fronts.”

Dalin admits that he remains a rookie in this famous race. “I have beaten my record for my time at sea. What I enjoy when ocean racing is being single-handed. I love ocean racing and being alone on my IMOCA. I admit I haven’t prepared myself mentally for going beyond these twenty days of sailing. The Vendée is the Holy Grail of single-handed sailing and I will be able to tell you more objectively about how I have managed these months at sea when I finish in Les Sables d’Olonne.”

Ranking – 21:00 (GMT)
1. Charlie DALIN, APIVIA – 17584.6 nm DTF
2. Thomas RUYANT, LinkedOut – 258.18 nm DTL*
3. Louis BURTON, BUREAU VALLEE 2 – 302.26 nm DTL
4. Sébastien SIMON, ARKEA PAPREC – 355.16 nm DTL
5. Yannick BESTAVEN, Maître CoQ IV – 372.95 nm DTL
DTF – Distance to Finish; DTF – Distance to Lead
* Ruyant damaged port foil on Nov. 24 at 02:00.

Race detailsBoat typesTrackerRankingYouTube

The Vendée Globe is the only sailing race round the world that’s solo, non-stop, and without assistance, and it was all systems go for the 9th edition on November 8. Beginning in 1989 with 13 entries, the start line in 2020 had 33 skippers taking off from Les Sables d’Olonne, France.

The development of the IMOCA Class toward foiling will see these boats hurl themselves around the world, teetering on carbon skates through inhospitable regions, chasing the record set in 2016-17 by Armel le Cléac’h of 74:03:35:46.

2020-21 Attrition
Nov. 16, 2020 – Nicolas TROUSSEL, CORUM L’EPARGNE – dismasted
Nov. 28, 2020 – Alex THOMSON, HUGO BOSS – damaged rudder

Participation history:
1989-90: 13 boats at the start
1992-93: 15 boats
1996-97: 15 boats
2000-01: 24 boats
2004-05: 20 boats
2008-2009: 30 boats
2012-2013: 20 boats
2016-2017: 29 boats
2020-2021: 33 boats

2020-21 Entries
Fabrice AMEDEO: NEWREST – ART & FENÊTRES
Romain ATTANASIO: PURE – BEST WESTERN
Alexia BARRIER: TSE – 4MYPLANET
Yannick BESTAVEN: MAÎTRE COQ IV
Jérémie BEYOU: CHARAL
Arnaud BOISSIÈRES: LA MIE CÂLINE – ARTISANS ARTIPÔLE
Louis BURTON: BUREAU VALLÉE 2
Didac COSTA: ONE PLANET ONE OCEAN
Manuel COUSIN: GROUPE SÉTIN
Clarisse CREMER: BANQUE POPULAIRE X
Charlie DALIN: APIVIA
Samantha DAVIES: INITIATIVES-CŒUR
Sébastien DESTREMAU: MERCI
Benjamin DUTREUX: OMIA – WATER FAMILY
Kevin ESCOFFIER: PRB
Clément GIRAUD: COMPAGNIE DU LIT / JILITI
Pip HARE: MEDALLIA
Boris HERRMANN: SEA EXPLORER – YACHT CLUB DE MONACO
Ari HUUSELA: STARK
Isabelle JOSCHKE: MACSF
Jean LE CAM: YES WE CAM !
Stéphane LE DIRAISON: TIME FOR OCEANS
Miranda MERRON: CAMPAGNE DE FRANCE
Giancarlo PEDOTE: PRYSMIAN GROUP
Alan ROURA: LA FABRIQUE
Thomas RUYANT: LINKEDOUT
Damien SEGUIN: GROUPE APICIL
Kojiro SHIRAISHI: DMG MORI
Sébastien SIMON: ARKEA – PAPREC
Maxime SOREL: V AND B – MAYENNE
Alex THOMSON: HUGO BOSS
Armel TRIPON: L’OCCITANE EN PROVENCE
Nicolas TROUSSEL: CORUM L’ÉPARGNE

Source: Vendée Globe

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