Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Fourth time lucky, Riou describes Le Cam’s rescue

[Source: Vendée Globe] Vincent Riou (PRB) and Armel Le Cléac’h (Brit Air) spoke to the Vendée Globe organizers in Paris this evening, and described their successful rescue of Jean Le Cam from the capsized VM Matériaux…

Vincent Riou (PRB): Jean Le Cam is doing fine, after what was probably a most difficult experience. A few hours ago the rescue wasn't certain. Le Cam's boat partly filled with water, so he was in the bow. Riou waited with Armel throughout the day to make sure they were there when he came out. They couldn't contact him. On one sail past he noticed the hatch was broken open and Jean was out. Riou threw Le Cam a rope three times but he couldn't catch it.

Jean had to hang onto the rudder for 15 mins. Riou wasn't sure whether Armel could help at that moment and so that's why he moved closer. After failing three times he was feeling desperate. On the fourth attempt Vincent moved closer and damaged his own boat, but was determined to pick up Jean. Jean wrapped the rope around himself and Vincent pulled him in on the winch.

VM Matériaux capsized. Cape Horn, 6 January 2009. Photo copyright Chilean Navy

Riou thought his boat was dismasted as the mast was at a 30° angle, but Jean said they could save the mast by gybing and the shrouds went tight again. If PRB had been dismasted they would have been in another difficult situation, so they had to do something quickly.

The incident began when he was on the phone with Jean [immediately before the capsize] and then all day long he has been speeding to the rescue, and then had a very trying wait today alongside not knowing what was going to happen. The tanker couldn't do much to help either so it must have been difficult for them too. There was a lot of communicating between the authorities and organizers, but the problem was the lack of communication between Jean and Vincent, as neither knew what the other was going to do. As a sailor, it’s the sort of thing you have to do. They are currently heading for Beagle Channel and Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego, Argentina) on PRB.

Armel Le Cléac'h (Brit Air): It’s a great relief, it’s been a highly emotional time. The main thing is that it has ended happily except for the damage to PRB. Armel arrived an hour after Vincent, who told him that he'd been in contact with Jean. They agreed to take it in turns to circle the boat. Vincent took over and Armel was busy working on his engine. When he returned he saw PRB's rig over at an angle and broken outriggers — didn't understand it a t first and wondered what had happened. Then great relief when he found out Jean was on board PRB, so a wide range of emotions. Has followed them for an hour but now PRB is sailing under reduced sail, so 10 minutes ago he got back on course to head for the Horn. Is not really concentrating on the race for the moment — needs to eat. Will also have lost his faithful companion, but hopes Vincent will be able to sail back to Les Sables — he deserves that.



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