Dalin maintains lead amid Vendee fleet relief over rescue

·3 min read
French skipper Sebastien Simon, seen here in October at the helm of Arkea Paprec, struck an unidentified floating object

Charlie Dalin maintained his sizeable lead Wednesday as the Vendee Globe flotilla breathed a collective sigh of relief at the successful rescue 24 hours earlier of Kevin Escoffier.

Escoffier was saved by fellow competitor Jean Le Cam after a giant wave folded his boat in two.

In a video call with Le Cam alongside, Escoffier told French President Emmanuel Macron how he had endured 12 hours on an inflatable dinghy before gratefully grabbing hold of the lifebelt thrown by his 61-year-old knight in shining armour.

"It makes me humble, we don't have moments like that where we risk our lives and where we save the life of another," Macron told Le Cam.

"You've made every seagoer proud, everyone was very moved by what took place this night. You've shown that this is not just a competition, it's also about values and friendship," Macron said in the call on Tuesday evening from his office in the Elysee Palace.

As Escoffier was keeping Le Cam welcome company before being picked up by a French frigate in a few days time another Vendee competitor was hitting trouble.

Sebastien Simon, racing in fourth, reported that his new generation Arkea Paprec yacht had struck an unidentified floating object.

Wednesday morning's collision seriously damaged the foil apparatus designed to help lift the boat so that it is virtually flying across the top of the waves.

"Sebastien is doing everything to bring the situation under control in light of the heavy seas and strong winds forecast for the night to come," his team said.

- 'Cried with joy' -

Simon was one of the four competitors invited by race organisers to deviate and join in the operation to rescue Escoffier.

The 30-year-old like Escoffier is tackling the solo round the world race for the first time.

He had passed the Cape of Good Hope five hours before the accident at which point he was 436nm (700 kilometres) behind Dalin.

Dalin, at the helm of one of sailing's toughest tests for the past 10 days, was 244nm clear of Thomas Ruyant at 1100GMT.

Like Dalin, Ruyant was taking stock following the dramatic events surrounding Escoffier's rescue the day before.

"We think about it and it's true that unconsciously you lift your foot a little off the gas," he said.

"It reminds us that the waters we are in are complicated to navigate, hard on the boats.

"You have to go carefully, look after your equipment. It's a long journey around the world."

Escoffier's dance with danger in the high seas reduced fellow competitor Clarisse Cremer to tears.

"We were all very very moved, we spent a terrible night, I cried with joy yesterday morning when the good news was announced, all my emotions mixed up," the 30-year-old told race organisers.

"It was total relief, but at the same time very strange to live through that at sea. I daren't think about the friends who went to the zone itself.

"Emotionally it must have been even more complicated for them," added Cremer, who is another taking part in her first Vendee.