(Reuters) - French sailor Kevin Escoffier was rescued in heavy seas off the Cape of Good Hope by rival Jean Le Cam on Tuesday, more than 11 hours after his yacht broke in two during the Vendee Globe race.
Organisers of the solo, round-the-world race said Escoffier was safe and well with fellow Frenchman Le Cam, who plucked the 40-year-old from his liferaft after an overnight search.
Escoffier was in third place and some 840 nautical miles south west of Cape Town when his IMOCA 60 yacht nose-dived into a wave, breaking in two and giving the experienced sailor just minutes to sent a distress signal and board his liferaft.
"I need assistance. I am sinking. This is not a joke," Escoffier said in a message to his team.
France's Yannick Bestaven and Sebastien Simon and Germany's Boris Herrmann were among the other sailors called in to help after Le Cam's efforts to find Escoffier in the darkness failed.
But after several aborted attempts, 61-year-old Le Cam managed to locate Escoffier and bring him aboard.
"I got to the position given by the tracker and ... it was all good, I saw Kevin in his liferaft," Le Cam said.
"I saw Kevin, he asked me 'will you be back?', I said 'no, we are doing this now!'. I threw him the life ring and he caught it, and then he managed to catch the transmission bar and that was it," Le Cam, a hugely popular sailor in France, added.
All the boats involved in the rescue will return to the race, with the time spent deducted from their overall time.
The Vendee Globe is an endurance race which is held every years and begins and ends in Les Sables D'Olonne in France.
One of the favourites, Alex Thomson, has already had to abandon his attempt to become the first non-French sailor to win the race after a rudder broke, while Nicolas Troussel had to give up after his mast snapped.
(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Alexander Smith)