At sea (AFP)

Eleven hours of waiting, and a happy ending: Kevin Escoffier, mounted on his life raft after a major water leak on his boat, was recovered safe and sound by Jean Le Cam during the night from Monday to Tuesday.

"A huge relief! Kevin is well aboard Hubert safe and sound," tweeted Le Cam, who can be seen in front of his French compatriot in a screenshot published on the organizer's website, on the border with the Indian Ocean, 600 miles southwest of the Cape of Good Hope.

"It was at 2:18 am French time (1:18 GMT) that the PRB team was informed of the rescue. The PRB skipper appeared smiling, bundled up in his survival suit alongside Jean Le Cam", the organizer tweeted, who first announced the rescue.

Third in the race, Escoffier had triggered his distress beacon Monday afternoon while sailing in the 40th Roaring, an area known for its breaking waves and strong winds.

The South African emergency services (MRC Cape Town) were also alerted and were in contact with the race management.

And the hours have been long, made cruel by the local conditions - the night darkness and heavy seas ...

- Four skippers confused -

As Jean Le Cam progressed, "he disappeared from the screen and we heard him speak. We couldn't see anyone anymore," said Jacques Caraës, the race director, on the site.

Then, around 1:10 GMT, "Jean walked back down to the chart table, then we saw Kevin arrive behind his back in a survival suit. They appeared seconds, both in good shape before the video cut. He's fine. Everyone's fine. They're recovering! "

Four skippers left on Monday in search of Escoffier.

The Cam had been the first to have reached the emission zone of the Escoffier distress beacon at 4:00 p.m. GMT, that is to say 2 hours after the alert.

It must be said that Escoffier and Le Cam had been very close for a few days, fighting for 3rd place, but a good distance from the leader, Charlie Dalin, and his first pursuer, Thomas Rettant.

The Cam quickly sighted the liferaft, but the rescue operation was made difficult by heavy seas with troughs of 5 meters and water at around 10 degrees.

The three other competitors invited by the organization to deviate to reinforce the research were Yannick Bestaven (Maître Coq), Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) and Sébastien Simon (Arkéa Paprec).

Competitors who have provided assistance will then be able to resume their round-the-world trip (the hours devoted to rescue will be deducted from their race time).

- Remember 2009 -

The Cam, the rescue, he knows all about it: he himself had been rescued in 2009, off Cape Horn after his boat overturned.

Refugee at the front of the boat upside down, he had been saved by Vincent Riou.

Escoffier, a very experienced 40-year-old sailor, is taking part in the Vendée Globe for the first time, at the helm of a + steering wheel + boat of the first generation, which left the shipyards just 11 years ago.

With two crewed races around the world with stopovers (Volvo Ocean Race), one of which was victorious in 2018, Escoffier quickly placed in the leading group and took third place in the Vendée Globe for the first time in the night from Sunday to Monday.

Monday morning, during a session with the Race HQ, he said he was preparing to face his "first gale with 35 knots and six meters of hollow".

This is the first rescue operation since the start of the race on November 8, which has only two withdrawals out of the 33 participants: that of Nicolas Troussel (Corum L'Epargne) on November 16 after a dismasting, and that from Briton Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) on November 28 due to damage to a rudder after structural problems.

© 2020 AFP