Orange Project skipper tells of dramatic rescue

Stève Ravussin, rescued skipper of The Orange Project trimaran which capsized in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, taking part in the Route du Rhum, is safe and
sound, en route towards the South of England where he should step ashore
on 13 November.

Steve found enough strength to climb up on the
upturned boat. He then was able to turn his distress beacon on, and
the signal was caught by the Maritime Rescue Centre Control of
Norfolk, USA. Norfolk then contacted the Route du Rhum organisers,
and alerted the ships that were sailing in the area.

The Okhta Bridge
tanker, which was the closest, changed course and came to the rescue.
Ironically enough, this ship belongs to the Sovcomflot company, which
was Steve’s sponsor last year.

Seeing the massive silhouette of a tanker getting dangerously closer
surely is a scary experience… “The boat came 5 metres away from me,
Steve recounts. I was tangled up in a mess of ropes, and I did not
understand how the crew had planned to get me out of this trap. They
tried to throw lines at me from the bow – I was right under it, and
it culminated at 20 metres above the sea! I made myself a kind of
harness, and managed to catch their rope. It was connected to an
automatic winch, and when the crew thought I was properly tied, they
turned the winch on, and I was dragged along the hull. I had kept
with me a pair of scissors, which I used to cut all the ropes that
were still tying me to the trimaran… I screamed like never before,
I thought my end was near…”

The capsize happened while Steve was on the foredeck, busy tying up his gennaker to the net, the autopilot suddenly failed and the trimaran started luffing…
He ran to the cockpit, but another pilot failure made a nose-diving unavoidable. The
transoms were soon up in the air, the masthead came crashing into the

“The protection structure installed by Lalou Roucayrol
(previous skipper of the boat, then named Banque Populaire) around
the helmsman seat saved my life, Steve says. When the boat
pitch-poled, I hung on to it, not knowing which way it would come
down. The mast resistance prevented the total capsize for a moment,
but eventually the boat ended up upside down. I found myself under
the net. I was wearing my survival gear, which I had put on to
shelter from the spray. I’m not a good swimmer, and I had to fight to
keep my head out of the water. I saw my own death a first time… The
crossbeam was on my back, and the swell, lifting the boat up, allowed
me to breathe.Physically, I’m fine. Mentally, I feel as if I’ve fired all my rounds, there’s not much left, ” he told Scuttlebutt.