French sailor Kevin Escoffier has been rescued by fellow competitor and compatriot Jean Le Cam in a round-the-world race after spending over 11 hours in a life raft.
Both men were competing in the Vendée Globe, a 24,296-mile solo sailing race, when Escoffier hit trouble.
The 40-year-old Escoffier said he was forced to abandon his yacht after a wave “folded the boat in two” off the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, on Monday.
“You see the images of shipwrecks? It was like that, but worse. In four seconds the boat nosedived, the bow folded at 90 degrees,” he said.
“I put my head down in the cockpit, a wave was coming. I had time to send one text before the wave fried the electronics. It was completely crazy.”
Race organizers responded by diverting Le Cam on a rescue mission, with the Frenchman the nearest competitor to the scene.
The 61-year-old had made initial visual and voice contact with his compatriot but it took multiple attempts to successfully rescue Escoffier in the early hours of Tuesday, amid strong winds and big waves.
“I told myself I would stay on standby and wait for daylight. Then I thought that in the dark it might be easier to see his light,” Le Cam said.
“One moment when I was on deck I saw a flash, but in fact it was a reflection that glinted off a wave.
“But the more I got closer to the light I saw it more and more. It is amazing because you switch from despair to an unreal moment in an instant.”
Le Cam himself was rescued in this race in 2009 after spending 16 hours in his upturned yacht and Escoffier said he was not scared as soon as he saw his rival in the distance.
“As soon as I had seen Jean I was sure I would be saved,” he said.
Organizers had escalated the operation by sending a further three competitors to help with the rescue but all those dispatched are free to return to the race and the lost hours will be deducted from their final time.
“It is the outcome we were hoping for. It was pitch black, not easy conditions but finally the outcome is almost a miracle,” said race director Jacques Caraes.
“It was not easy to pick Kevin up in the middle of the night, Jean is an extremely experienced sailor and he always followed our instructions to the letter.
“We had lots of unknowns, lots of different positions. We had to be positive all the time and believe in things. We were lucky, luck was on our side.”
Dubbed the “Everest of the seas,” the Vendee Globe started from Les Sables d’Olonne on the November 8.
The winner of the 2016-2017 edition was Armel Le Cléac’h, who completed the race in a record breaking time of 74 days, three hours, 35 minutes and 46 seconds.