Fabrice Amedeo saw death up close on Monday on the Route du Rhum. His boat Nexans – Art & Fenêtres suffered an explosion, then a fire, before sinking off Portugal. The skipper’s story is chilling.
It is a miracle that was expressed Monday evening on the site of the Route du Rhum. Fabrice Amedeo (44) believed that his last hour had come, following the explosion of his Imoca Nexans – Art & Fenêtres. The monohull then caught fire and then sank off the Portuguese coast. The skipper was able to get out thanks to his life raft, and was picked up by a freighter, safe and sound. A small miracle, given his incredible story. Selected pieces.
Amedeo: “I am in the middle of the flames”
“Shortly after 12:30 p.m., new smoke on board. Followed by an explosion. I grope back into the cabin and manage to retrieve my TPS (survival suit). My Grab bag (survival bag) had remained in the cockpit. I’m going back to get my wedding ring. I hit the fire extinguisher but nothing happens. The smoke is not white like yesterday but yellow. The cockpit warps and yellows. Seawater spray is like the sound of water hitting a saucepan. I understand that I will have to evacuate. I warn my team of a possible evacuation. When I hang up, I am then at the back of the boat ready to trigger my survival: a torrent of flame comes out of the cabin and the cap. I am in the middle of the flames. I can’t even open my eyes. I manage to push the life raft into the water and jump. Normally the end that holds the survival to the boat is supposed to let go. He doesn’t let go. (…) The Imoca draws me to it. The waves bring me dangerously back to him. I finally find the knife and cut. My raft is drifting downwind of the Imoca, which is on fire. It will take 30 minutes to sink. I spoke to him and thanked him. We were to go around the world together in two years. (…) I stand behind the raft so that it doesn’t overturn. The sea is very very formed. I take stock of the equipment on board and prepare for what’s next. I gather the rockets. Put the VHF around my neck. I spend three to four hours in this raft. I am surprisingly calm. The raft regularly fills with water from the lightly breaking waves. I get it but feel safe. I know, however, that nothing is settled. Every 30 minutes, to save the batteries, I make a Mayday call to the VHF. »
Amedeo: “It’s crazy this animal capacity that humans have to manage a survival situation”
“After a while a voice answers me. A freighter which is 6 miles from my position arrives in the area. I’m reassured but don’t see how I’m going to board such a behemoth with this sea. (…) I’m about two miles away. I hit a distress flare. He sees me. He loses me. I hit a second one. He sees me and arrives in the area. He tries a first approach which fails. It’s very impressive to be in my inflatable raft a few meters from this steel giant. (…) The raft rubs against the hull from front to back. If that doesn’t work, the rest will be complicated. The crew threw ropes at me that I couldn’t recover at first. Eventually I get there. I retrieve one near the bow of the ship. Everything is played on the wire. There is the thickness of the line between success and failure, survival and drama. The crew pulls me to a staircase that has been taken down. With the waves I sometimes go up to the level of the stairs then go down 5 meters below. This is the last test. If survival passes under the stairs it will be pierced and I will be thrown into the water. I approach. A first time: I don’t feel it. A second wave, I go up and hop I jump on the staircase which I reach then finds myself in the arms of a helmeted man. I go back on deck. It was once on board the freighter that the fear and the adrenaline came. My legs were shaking. It’s crazy this animal capacity that Man has to manage a survival situation. And then it falls. Death didn’t want me today, or rather life didn’t want me to leave it. I’m devastated but the happiest of men because tonight my wife and daughters aren’t going to bed crying. »