HomeThe Ocean RaceKevin Escoffier: The ultimate competitor

Kevin Escoffier: The ultimate competitor

Team Holcim-PRB skipper Kevin Escoffier provides insight into how he led his team through the longest leg in the history of The Ocean Race…

It’s difficult to imagine Team Holcim-PRB skipper Kevin Escoffier ever choosing to back off, even if he puts managing his team and his boat at the top of his job list as skipper.

Quite simply, he’s not built this way. He’s a fierce competitor. It comes across in the media feeds sent off the boat by the on board reporters and he confesses this has been part his character as long as he can remember.

“From playing rugby at 5 years old I’ve been like this, it’s true,” Escoffier says, smiling. “I want to do things well and I want to win. But in a good way, with a crew that will have good memories of this race. I don’t want to win at all costs. That isn’t the way to do things anymore. We can win and have a good team spirit, we can win by making the right choices; I think we can do it all.”

That being said, in the course of a 20-minute interview, it was very clear that dropping just one point over four scoring opportunities across the first three legs of The Ocean Race was an itch that Escoffier was still scratching.

“I’m missing the taste of the victory definitely,” he said, the day after arriving in second place in Itajaí. “But the truth is we’ve ticked all the boxes. In Cape Town I said I wanted to arrive in Itajaí with the crew and the boat in good shape and today we have this, plus 9 points for the leg – the same as Malizia – so I’m a happy skipper.”

Leg 3 was the longest in the history of The Ocean Race and took the teams into the southern latitudes the sailors call The Southern Ocean. This is where low pressure systems roll around Antarctica one after the other, the wind and waves unimpeded by land masses, and at times building to fearsome heights.

This particular journey through the South, leg 3 of The Ocean Race, was ‘relatively’ mild, until the final approach to Cape Horn, and then the trip up the Atlantic to Itajaí would provide one of the sternest tests of the entire trip.

For Escoffier’s Team Holcim-PRB, the race from Cape Town to Itajaí saw the crew jump out to an impressive lead – nearly 600 nautical miles at one point – only to see the weather systems align such that the trailing boats had an advantage and were able to make up nearly all the deficit.

Still, the team would score maximum points at the mid-leg scoring gate, round Cape Horn in second place and be locked in a battle for the lead with Boris Herrmann’s Team Malizia up until the penultimate night of the leg, when a malfunction of the autopilot in very heavy weather conditions just off the coast of Uruguay led to a wipe-out and damage to the sails such that Malizia was able to race away to a well-earned victory.

“When you pass Cape Horn, it is still not finished,” Escoffier notes. “There was no possibility to avoid this last low pressure system coming off the coast. There was a very short sea state and we had a pilot issue on this night. And after that, the weather system favoured the boat in front which didn’t help us. But let’s be clear, Malizia has been sailing well. All boats had their issues, we had our issue on the last night when there was very little time to come back.

“It’s my job to decide, ‘are we pushing 105% on the last night in 50 knots and 5 metres to try to gain on Malizia who is already faster than us in these conditions?’ I don’t say we didn’t fight, we are always fighting, but always respecting the tools we have… We have pushed ourselves to stay focused, to not make mistakes that close to the finish.

“The question is not, ‘Will you do a perfect leg’ because it’s not possible. The right question is, Will you make less mistakes than the others?’

“And of course everybody has made mistakes on this leg. Everybody has had technical issues. We had ours on the last night when it was difficult to come back. Is it sad? Yeah a bit. But it’s part of competing in a mechanical sport.

“You can see from this that it is never finished. We are pushing for 35 days and on the last night still pushing. You’re tired, you haven’t slept, you haven’t eaten properly, or had a shower for a month. You’re wearing your last t-shirt and legging, and still we are pushing, so I think we can be proud of how we raced to the end.”

Escoffier says keeping a wider view in mind and knowing when enough is enough, is a critical part of his role as skipper.

“My job is not only to go fast. It’s also my job to know when to push, when to slow down, to manage the crew, to manage the boat and to still be here in Itajaí leading The Ocean Race and with everything and everyone in good shape to continue the fight on the next leg to Newport.

“It’s not about the short term all the time. It’s important to look at the big picture. We’ve done only 4 out of 9 of the point scoring opportunities. So it’s to have a long term view as well.”

Escoffier is right – there is much of The Ocean Race left to be contested. And if the finish in Itajaí provided the first glimpse that Team Holcim-PRB wasn’t going to run away with a perfect score on the leaderboard then Escoffier, the ultimate competitor, will need to resign himself to starting leg 4 having earned ‘just’ 19 out of a possible 20 points, and posting a new 24 hour distance record in the IMOCA class along the way.

“I think it could have been even more if we weren’t worried about managing the boat,” he says with a glint in his eyes. “And I’m not saying that to puff out the chest. But I believe the IMOCA has a huge speed potential and there is more to find.”

The search continues.

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

WP Twitter Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com