North Sails NEWS
PRB SKIPPER KEVIN ESCOFFIER: THE MULTI-TASKING SAILOR
One of 33 Skippers to Participate in the 9th Edition of the Vendée Globe
Kevin Escoffier is one of 33 skippers participating in the 9th edition of the Vendée Globe. After several years as a design office manager and crew member on various ocean racing programs (monohulls, multihulls), he is now skipper to a new challenge onboard IMOCA PRB. With the Vendée start just one month away, Escoffier is on a mission to prove that he can stand on his own feet or- foils.
From Team Member to Solo Sailor
Born into a sailing family and passionate about technology, Escoffier left his hometown of Saint-Malo at 19-year old for Paris. There he began studies in mechanical engineering with a particular focus on the materials and structures used in the construction of race boats. Escoffier landed a graduation internship in Port-La-Forêt (Brittany, France) with Michel Desjoyeaux and the Mer Agitée Team. In 2005, Escoffier’s ocean racing fervor grew when he raced, and ultimately won, the Transat Jacques Vabre onboard Crêpe Whaou with his father, Franck-Yves. One year later, Escoffier joined the Team PRB to manufacture Vincent Riou’s fourth IMOCA; then, he was hired by the Banque Populaire Team as a project manager.
At the same time, Kevin had a brilliant career as an offshore racing crew member and racked-up victories and offshore miles; the North Atlantic Record in 2009 on Banque Populaire V, the Jules Verne Trophy alongside French navigator Loïck Peyron in 2011, and the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 with French skipper Charles Caudrelier.
Just before his 40th birthday, Escoffier was looking to take on a new solo sailing challenge. And, then Riou offered him an opportunity he couldn’t refuse- the change to take the helm of his IMOCA PRB in 2018 and then race for the Vendée Globe 2020.
The Engineer and the Sailor
With the start of the Vendée 2020 approaching, Escoffier commented: “After my second Volvo campaign in 2018, one of the toughest crewed ocean races, I had gained maturity, and I finally felt ready to try the solo experience. And then surprisingly, Vincent contacted me. It was like a sign.”
His diverse background in offshore racing, both onshore and onboard, make Escoffier uniquely suited to manage all aspects of Team PRB. As the team head, Escoffier supervises the whole project, from boat performance to the shipyard management, and the rigging, the sails, and fitness training.
“I’ve had the chance to sail aboard multihulls, to sail around the world on different boats, and I’m indeed coming late into solo sailing, but I’ve come to look for other experiences in a field I hadn’t explored before. It’s not to get Kevin Escoffier talked about,” he explained, “but it’s to achieve even more as a sailor, to take on the challenge of the sport and to have even more confidence in myself. My only apprehension is that I’m not performing well enough.”
And when Riou entrusted him to take over the helm of his PRB IMOCA (a Verdier designed boat launched in 2010), what he found in Escoffier was an experienced and versatile sailor.
“I’m taking over a project whose means are not the same as those of other top sailors who can focus mainly on the sporting side. I’m involved in all aspects of the boat. In addition to being the skipper and spending as much time on the water as possible, you have to be a team manager, manage all the design phases, follow the shipyards, design boat parts, get involved in the manufacture of the rigging, mast, and sails, manage all the meetings. We are only four full-time people within the team.”
Even if it may seem overwhelming, his engineer’s cap is an asset, he says, and on the contrary, it helps him understand the highly technical boat. “Understanding the complex and fragile structure of the IMOCA boats makes it possible to go faster and to be careful to know the limits of these boats not to break them.”
A boat, a Story
PRB underwent some modifications (electronics, deck plan, sails…), and yet, this boat maintains Riou’s original vision. “We worked with two shipyards, one of which was a big winter shipyard,” Escoffier explained. We especially looked for three aspects in the evolution of PRB: first reliability, then performance, and last, ergonomics to put it a little in my hands. But it will always be Vincent’s boat; he designed and developed it for ten years. And now I am refining it. Every boat has a story. PRB continues to live in my hands, and I am adding a chapter to its history.”
Among PRB’s other evolutions, sails are an area in which Escoffier is heavily involved. “With North Sails, we worked together on the design and development of a new set of sails. I have a long-standing relationship with North Sails, specifically with Gautier Sergent and Yann Régniau, from when I was working for Team Banque Populaire in the design office. I also made two Volvo, two IMOCA, and a multihull project with North sails. I’m lucky to work with competent people. They not only have the best products in the world with 3Di, but they also have the best human skills. That’s what I appreciate.”
The fact remains that carrying out a Vendée Globe campaign requires meticulous organization. “First of all, you have to establish a coherent schedule according to the time allowed. We are always on a tight schedule, and planning dictates everything to organize ourselves well. Then, you must work very hard and know everything at your fingertips. I don’t want to have any regrets, and I will put the work in to be ready for the start in Les Sables-d’Olonne next November.”
Escoffier has already shown his potential in the IMOCA, evidenced by last year’s brilliant results: 2nd in the Transat Jacques Vabre with Nicolas Lunven and 2nd in the Rolex Fastnet Race. This year he claimed 5th in the Arctic Vendée, and very recently claimed his first victory in the Tour de l’île de Groix, during the Défi Azimut. There is no doubt that this serious competitor will be able to make the most of his boat to shine during his first solo round-the-world race.