Vendée Globe survivor tells of dramatic rescue ordeal
Thursday 08 January 2009
Jean Le Cam, who survived for 16 hours under his capsized boat near Cape Horn in the Vendée Globe solo round-the-world race before being rescued by fellow competitor Vincent Riou on Tuesday, has spoken of his immense relief to have survived the ordeal.
Le Cam, whose VM Matériaux capsized in heavy seas, relived the moment when he realised rescue was at hand. He said: "I heard Vincent's voice in the morning, and thought am I dreaming or not? Then I heard it again so I was sure he was there, and that's important, because if you get out and there's no one, you're in a really bad shape because possibly you can't get back in, I mean there's only one shot at this.
"So I went in the back, it was immersed in water, I went back in my igloo in the front of the boat, and at one point, I thought let's go back, it's not because there's water that I can't give it a try, I had capsized once and had held on the outside of the boat for five hours, you need to hold on to something, it's like when you go buy bread you can't forget your money.
"So I opened the hatch," he added, "and Vincent saw things come out of the hatch, and then I put my feet first, I got out in one movement with the wave, I held on and saw Vincent, which was a great moment."
Even then the rescue was not complete, as Riou, who had diverted course in his boat, PRB, had to make four attempts to get Le Cam in his vessel. "I heard screams," Riou recalled, "I could hear his fear in his screams, I was afraid of the cold and hypothermia for him, the boat was slowly sinking, I didn't know how he was inside, I was imagining that he could try and get out at some point, so we decided to take rounds for the boat because I was afraid that he'd try to get out and there would be no one waiting there for him.
"It's not easy for someone to get out like that, so we stayed close to the boat the whole time we waited, when I took my turn and I saw things coming out, I thought he's doing something, I saw containers, then the hatch came out, and I knew immediately the boat was open and so I stayed close so as soon as Jean would come out I'd be there.
"And then I came close a first time, I came close a second time and I missed him, it could only take one bigger wave for Jean to be sent off, you can't resist the pressure of the water, the fourth time I got really close, the hulls didn't touch but the keel hit the outrigger, but at the time I really didn't care, first I get Jean, my priority was set on getting Jean no matter what."
Le Cam has won the Solitaire du Figaro three times.
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