Vendee skipper onboard Vincent Riou's PRB

Jean Le Cam, the French skipper whose boat capsized 200 miles west of Cape Horn while competing in the Vendee Globe around the world yacht race, has been rescued.

At 1810 on Tuesday fellow competitor and friend Vincent Riou reported that Le Cam was safe and sound aboard his own boat,PRB, although the yacht had suffered some damage in the process.

A major rescue operation took place yesterday to retrieve Le Cam, 49, from the upturned hull ofVM Matériaux. A Chilean Navy tug boat equipped with divers was on its way, a helicopter had been deployed and the tankerSonangol Kassanjewas standing by ? but in the end it was Riou who successfully recovered his fellow countryman.

Riou told race directors that Le Cam had climbed out ofVM Matériauxwearing his survival suit. Riou said that he circled repeatedly to retrieve the skipper from the water, and on the fourth attempt he successfully rescued Le Cam, a married father of two.

However, on his final approach alongside the invertedVM Matériaux, the end of PRB’s port outrigger was damaged against the upturned keel fin. Le Cam was able to scramble aboard soon after and appears to be unhurt. Riou reported that both skippers immediately went to work on deck to stabilisePRB’s mast. They then sailed off slowly, on starboard tack, on a heading of 110 with three reefs in the main and no headsail.

Armel Le Cléac’h onBrit Air, who was also standing by to assist in the rescue, is now followingPRBas they investigate repairs to the rig.

‘It’s an incredible story that has a happy end,’ said Alain Gautier, the Vendée Globe safety consultant.

The rescue operation by the Chilean Navy has been called off ? the helicopter has turned around, as has the Chilean tug, which was set to reachVM Matériauxon Wednesday morning. The oil tanker which has been standing alongside since this morning can also now move off.