Search Launched After Vendee Globe Competitor Abandons Ship

Escoffier's racing yacht, PRB (Team PRB)

Published Nov 30, 2020 9:32 PM by The Maritime Executive

A leading competitor in this year's Vendee Globe solo round-the-world race has abandoned ship, and a search to find him is under way.

Sailor Kevin Escoffier was in third place on Monday when he alerted his shore team that his vessel, the IMOCA-class sailing yacht PRB, was taking on water. He sent the alert at 1445 hours and told race organizers that he would be abandoning ship into his life raft. The last position of his vessel's EPIRB was at 40° 55' south, 09° 18' east, about 600 nm to the southwest of Cape Town.

French and South African maritime authorities (CROSS Gris-Nez and MRCC Cape Town) are involved in coordinating a response to the incident, along with the Vendee Globe's managers. Competitors Jean le Cam, Boris Herrmann and Yannick Bestaven have diverted to search for Escoffier, and a fourth - Sébastien Simon - is under way. 

Le Cam was the closest to the scene and arrived at about 1700 hours. With guidance from race directors and Escoffier's personal locator beacon, le Cam found Escoffier's life raft and came within hailing distance. However, due to the rough surface conditions, le Cam could not maneuver close enough to bring Escoffier on board, and he lost track of the life raft in the rough conditions. 

With Herrmann, Simon and Bestaven joining le Cam in the effort, race directors are coordinating a fine grid search beginning tomorrow morning. First light is at 0440 hours; conditions on scene are winds of about 20-25 knots, gusts to 35 knots and waves of about 15 feet. 

Meanwhile, competitor Alex Thompson has exited the race due to the loss of his yacht's starboard rudder. Thompson is safe and headed for Cape Town for repairs.