Judge is to decide who should pay the €750,000 for Vendée Globe rescue


French yacht sponsor PRB is pressing ahead with plans to sue for costs it says were incurred as result of rescuing Jean Le Cam during the Vendée Globe.

Earlier this month I wrote about the shockwaves sent out by PRB’s decision to try to recoup the costs of uninsured damage to the boat following the lifesaving rescue of Le Cam from his capsized boat 200 miles WNW of Cape Horn in January.

Riou clipped the canted keel of VM Matériaux with one of his deck spreaders in an attempt to get close enough to throw a line to Le Cam. The mast came down a day later. PRB’s chief executive Jean-Jacques Laurent argues that the dismasting was a direct consequence of the rescue.

The claim is being made against SEM Vendée (the Vendée Globe race organisers), Ambrose Light (race director Denis Horeau’s company), the underwriters of VM Matériaux and Jean Le Cam’s company Mervent.

A few weeks ago, a surveyor appointed by PRB inspected the boat. Eric Ogden, who has been involved in several French America’s Cup campaigns, estimated the cost of the damage., The claim for the lost wingmast, rigging and sails, hull damage plus shipping back the boat back from to France from Ushuaia is being put at “approaching ?750,000,” according to race director Denis Horeau.

Horeau confirms that the matter will go to a tribunal sometime after 15 May, when a judge will decide who is responsible and what, if anything, they should pay. “We don’t know what will happen,” he comments. “Maybe PRB has something [they can] ask, maybe they have nothing.”

This is the second unprecedented twist in PRB’s dealings with the race organisation. Vincent Riou was controversially awarded redress after the rescue, taking joint 3rd place and ?60,000 in prizemoney despite not sailing the final 6,000 miles.

The claim for recompense has gone down very badly with some of the other Vendée skippers and has soured the atmosphere of an event that prides itself on its fellowship and solidarity.

One of the most vocal is Kito de Pavant, who told French newspaper 20minutes.fr last month: “Ultimately, the only one who made a mistake is Riou himself. He did not make a good manoeuvre to rescue Le Cam. He could have killed himself and killed Jean Le Cam. Then to go and ask for ?750 000 is pathetic.”