“My hours were numbered”, says the French skipper rescued in the Atlantic


Laurent Camprubi was narrowly saved after spending 16 hours under the hull of his boat with very little air.

Rescued in extremis on Tuesday off the coast of northern Spain, the French skipper Laurent Camprubi told AFP on Thursday by telephone of his night spent under the hull of his capsized sailboat, surviving thanks to a shrinking air pocket. from hour to hour.

A preparation gone wrong

« I was preparing for the Route du Rhum (solo offshore race between Saint-Malo and Pointe à Pitre in Guadeloupe which will start on November 6, editor’s note), about fifteen miles off La Coruña. The sea was rough with a wind of about thirty knots, but the boat was going well. I was resting in the cockpit when I hit the water hard. The boat started to tilt and I realized that I had lost the keel. Within seconds, I found myself upside down. The sailboat began to sink and take on water. I said to myself: There we are not well. I managed to quickly get my hands on my survival suit and activate my distress beacon. The water continued to come in little by little and the electronics of the ship tore off. It was getting more and more dangerous to move around so I pulled into a corner and waited, hoping for help to arrive.« .

« I understood that my hours were numbered »

« At the start, I had 80 cm of air to breathe, but there was a backwash, it made a hell of a noise. I understood that my hours were numbered because this space was gradually diminishing. I heard a first helicopter after about two hours, then a little later a diver on the hull. I tried to tap hard and they heard me, but my exit was unsafe and communication was difficult. I knew they were there, but I had to hold on. I stayed like that in my corner for more than 12 hours. In the early morning, we knock on the door and I understand that they have made sure to create a passage. I took my breath and I went out snorkeling: there were 2 meters to go through the door, then 4 to get out of the cockpit and finally we had to go back to the surface. They were there to accompany my exit under water. Outside, we grab each other, we kiss and then they put me in the helicopter. These are times that I will never forget« .

“I thought of my wife, my children. I couldn’t give up on them. »

« I didn’t panic. I hoped that everything was going to be fine, that help would arrive quickly. When I heard the diver it was a great relief, but then there was the whole rescue operation which took time as the conditions were difficult. There is the fatigue, the stress, the water which was at 16 degrees and this space to breathe which was shrinking. Without the survival suit (in thick neoprene which makes it more resistant to cold water, editor’s note), I would not have held out. I thought of my wife, my children. I told myself that I would hold out for them. I couldn’t leave them. » « At La Coruña hospital I had a series of tests, I was at 34.5 degrees and very dehydrated, but I’m better now. I’m going to find my wife and children tomorrow, it’s a great relief. We were also able to repatriate the boat to La Coruña and we are in the process of refloating it with my co-skipper. The mast is in pieces, but we should be able to return to France with it. I’m going to put my Route du Rhum project on hold… I’m going to continue sailing, but change my program for the moment. I feared for my loved ones and I don’t want that to happen again« .

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