Transat Jacques-Vabre: Kevin Escoffier, the surviving engineer



First of all to evacuate the question that everyone has been asking him since he returned to dry land in December 2020, after his shipwreck in the Vendée Globe and his spectacular rescue by Jean Le Cam. “Yes it was stressful to be on the liferaft, he said. It’s been a long wait, but I never really doubted. Neither at the time, nor later. I never asked myself the question of stopping the sail. “

→ READ. Vendée Globe: Kevin Escoffier recovered by the French Navy

At 41, Kevin Escoffier does not want to drag this miracle status too long, a very heavy anchor to carry for any sailor. “This Vendée Globe is a failure and I want my revenge, especially since I am convinced that I did not make a false maneuver, on the contrary I was sailing cautiously”, explains the Malouin, who will have something to share with his skipper Armel Le Cléac’h, himself involved in a terrible accident during the Route du Rhum 2018.

“I was his engineer, I was there with him when we brought the dislocated wreck back to La Coruña (Spain). Something binds us forever, even if we don’t talk about it. You don’t have to, he knows, I know. “

“It’s Armel the boss, but I give my opinion”

Before these shipwrecks, which could have turned out much worse for either side, Escoffier and Le Cléac’h, it was the two fingers of one hand on a mainsheet. Almost ten years of designing the hull together, tracking down the extra kilograms, imagining the little trick to make life easier on board, it creates links comparable to those of a Formula 1 driver and his racing engineer. “He’s the boss, it’s his project, he’s the one who leaves, but I’m not the type not to give me my opinion, anyway that’s why I’m hired “, continues the sailor who has a double experience.

→ PORTRAIT. Transat Jacques-Vabre: Marie Tabarly, a name that floats in the wind

A mechanical engineer with much sought-after advice in the sailing industry, he has also dragged his bag a lot on the most beautiful racing boats, alongside the biggest names in ocean racing, Michel Desjoyeaux, Pascal Bidégorry, Vincent Riou . And so Armel Le Cléac’h, who called on him as a team member and advisor for the Transat Jacques-Vabre.

This race marks the first flight of People’s Bank XI in a transatlantic, after a satisfactory first race in the Bay of Biscay, the 24 heures Azimut, won by the duo at the end of September.Pop bank, it’s a bit like my home, and we don’t often have the opportunity to be invited on a boat like this, and I need it, mentally and physically, by the sea ”, explains the sailor.

At the same time, he is finalizing the construction of a new boat, financed by the faithful partner PRB, who had already built the one that disappeared in the South Atlantic. “We will soon launch it and it will be operational in March. So I had a little time. When Armel called me, I jumped at the chance ”, continues the luxury crew, determined to take full advantage of the opportunity to sail relieved of the responsibilities resting on the skipper alone. And what a skipper! Triple winner of the Solitaire du Figaro and first of the Vendée Globe 2012. “Everyone knows, Armel, it’s class. In addition he wins, which makes him a rare guy, by definition, since there is only one winner. “

The difference is made on the ground

The difference between a good sailor and a winning sailor? “She is also done a lot around a table chatting with partners or behind a computer screen”, explains Kevin Escoffier, who divides the performance pie into three parts. “There is the quality of the good man, that’s the main thing, because a good sailor on a bad boat will always go faster than a bad better endowed one. Then we are in a mechanical sport and the part of the material is very important. But I put at the same level as the first two points the ability of the sailor to manage the project on the financial, technical and human level. “

→ CRITICAL.Sailing: “The Atlantic in troubled waters”, thriller in the open sea

A third for the sailor, a third for the boat and a third for the management? “That’s about it, but we should add the weather, which is a fourth third even bigger”, smiles the sailor, who is delighted that his sport, so framed and modeled on land, keeps a part of chance at sea. “Too bad for the cliché, but the beauty of sport is also due to this element of uncertainty. The quality of the sailor also means being able to get out of unforeseen situations. Seen like this, there is something positive in my accident on the Vendée Globe. I think I reacted well and I came out stronger ”.

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His inspiration – My father, a fisherman

“I have worked with a lot of great sailors and have noticed that depending on the country, the definition changes. In France, we swear by solo sailors, elsewhere we praise America’s racers or the bosses of crewed races. I remember a stopover in Cape Town, South Africa, where no one knew Michel Desjoyeaux, who nevertheless won two Vendée Globe. For me a true sailor is someone who lives for the sea, able to sail all year round for work and go on cruises on vacation. Like my father for example. Him, we do not talk about it, he managed a fleet of fishing catamarans in Saint-Malo, and that is strong. He taught me everything. “

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→ PODCAST. Clarisse Crémer: “During the Vendée Globe, I took the time to contemplate the oceans”

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