Fellow sailor rescues French yachtsman

 

CAPE HORN - A FRENCH sailor was rescued from the hull of his capsized yacht yesterday evening after 16 hours trapped inside.

Jean Le Cam (49) was sailing his boat Materiaux in the Vendee Globe solo round-the-world race when he sent a distress call to his shore team yesterday at 00.26 GMT moments before his phone went dead and a distress beacon was activated.

At the time he was close to the treacherous Cape Horn lying third in the 26,000-mile race and it appears he lost his keel, causing the yacht to capsize.

Fellow French sailors in the race, Vincent Riou and Armel Le Cleac'h, changed course to go to the area where Le Cam was.

Yesterday at about 14.21 GMT Riou was able to get alongside the wreck in his yacht PRB and heard a shout from Le Cam.

At about 6pm Le Cam climbed out of the stricken yacht and Mr Riou was eventually able to get him aboard in heavy seas, despite suffering damage to his yacht. Initially it was thought that Mr Le Cam would be trapped until this morning when divers would get to the scene.

A  race spokeswoman said: "Jean Le Cam has been rescued safe and sound. This evening a fullscale rescue operation was in place to retrieve Jean Le Cam from the upturned hull of Materiaux — a Chilean Navy tug boat equipped with divers was on its way, a helicopter had been deployed and the tanker Sonangol Kassanje was standing by — but in the end it was Vincent Riou who successfully recovered fellow skipper and friend Le Cam.

"Vincent Riou circled repeatedly to retrieve the skipper from the water, and on the fourth attempt he successfully rescued Le Cam on board PRB.

"Le Cam appears to be unhurt, as Riou reported that both skippers worked on deck to stabilise PRB's mast."

The race organisers had launched a major rescue after they were alerted to the drama.

Married father-of-two Le Cam told his team he was experiencing serious difficulties on board his 60ft boat in the phone call.

The boat was located at 56 17' S and 73 46' W, or about 200 miles west of Cape Horn. At the time, the weather conditions were generating 25-knot westerly to southwesterly winds with stronger gusts.

A distress beacon on the monohull was triggered at 01.40 GMT.

The non-stop Vendee Globe race started in November last year from Les Sables d'Olonne in France with 30 competitors including seven Britons.

Since then the field has been more than halved with one sailor rescued in the Southern ocean when he broke his leg.

The Vendee is run every four years and only the French have won it.

In past competitions two sailors have died trying to circumnavigate the globe and several more are lucky to have escaped death.

Le Cam, from Brittany, came second in the last Vendee Globe, which finished in 2005. - (PA)