'Cry with fear, cry with laughter,' says Vendee Globe high seas hero Le Cam

Paris (AFP) –


High seas hero Jean Le Cam relived his dramatic rescue of a fellow Vendee Globe competitor on Thursday and admitted he "cried with laughter and cried with fear" during the knife-edge operation.

Le Cam was hailed when he saved Kevin Escoffier off Cape Horn last month as the gruelling round-the-world solo race threatened to turn to tragedy.

Escoffier had sent out a mayday signal and abandoned his yacht as it snapped in two and sank in seconds.

Le Cam, 61, rushed to the rescue but after initially spotting Escoffier in a life-raft, lost sight of him as night fell.

Le Cam unrelentingly scoured the seas for long, desperate hours before finding him again and dragging him aboard.

Five days later a French naval frigate caught up with the pair and Escoffier leapt back into the sea and swam across to the navy as the two yachtsmen waved an emotional goodbye.

"They are moments which are not necessarily ... pleasant, not necessarily easy to live with," Le Cam, 61, told AFP on Thursday.

"The contrast is incredible. You cry with fear and you cry with laughter, these are the extremes -- more for the rescuer than for the saved.

"He knows he is alive, he is in his raft. I don't know. I see him in his raft, then I move, I come back to the point where I had left him and there was no-one there.

"It was not very comfortable intellectually, we can say!"

Le Cam was in fourth place at the time of the nail-biting rescue but fell back to sixth.

The race is now in its 10th week.

On Thursday, Le Cam was down in ninth place, almost 244 nautical miles behind leader Charlie Dalin as the fleet passed the coast of Brazil.

Le Cam said that it was a weird sensation when Escoffier left his craft to swim to the French navy vessel.

"Technically it's simple, he put on his survival suit and jumped in the water, the military boat was there," he explained.

"They head off and I'm getting out of it! It feels weird. A week together, you get used to it; beforehand you're solo, you're doing your own thing.

"And then, you throw the other one in the water and you get back on your feet!."