Kevin Escoffier’s experience and feedback contribute to new liferaft developments to improve sailors’ safety at sea.

The IMOCA class is taking action to further enhance safety to ensure it is in line with these increasingly demanding boats. Optimising the onboard safety equipment is a major challenge.

This is especially true for liferafts with the IMOCA class submitting a list of specifications to Lorient-based liferaft designer and manufacturer Plastimo, as recommended by Kevin Escoffier, the unfortunate PRB skipper whose accident hit the headlines in the last Vendée Globe. Today, as a result of a close cooperation, Plastimo is proud to launch a new liferaft designed to equip the whole IMOCA fleet : a valuable joint achievement that enhances sailors’ safety at sea.

In the 2020-21 Vendée Globe, Kevin Escoffier’s extreme experience in the Indian Ocean confirmed that in the event of a serious accident, the chances of survival are greatly increased through the intervention of fellow competitors.

Optimisation focused on :

  • Locating the victim precisely by adding an AIS beacon in the liferaft (Automatic Identification System)
  • Facilitating communication with boats nearby by adding a handheld VHF
  • Improving visibility with two extra radar reflective panels on the canopy (70x30 cm each).

The liferaft now features an AIS beacon and a handheld VHF in addition to the +24H emergency pack which includes survival food, drinking water, SOLAS emergency suit and pyrotechnic signals and flares.

Structural modifications have also been introduced, such as moving the drogue securing point to the side of the liferaft so that the tension on the drogue line is no longer on the canopy opening side, which greatly reduces exposure to waves and water entry through open canopy. In addition, the painter line is even more clearly identified to release the liferaft from the boat safely.

This specific IMOCA liferaft (4-man capacity) comes in two versions : canister on deck and valise inside the boat. The valise model is folded in such a way that it fits through the escape hatch in case of boat capsizing. Depending on the race, one and/or the other version will be required.

© Julien Champolion - polaRYSE | PRB

Antoine Mermod, President of the IMOCA Class :« It was essential for us to draw lessons from Kevin’s experience in order to identify how to best improve our safety equipment. The Plastimo team is used to supporting racing sailors and being responsive to their requests : they were very sensitive to our concern and managed to come up with some excellent technical solutions geared around Kevin’s recommendations. This liferaft is now available to all professional sailors and will gradually equip all IMOCA boats : the target is for the entire 2024-25 Vendée Globe fleet to be equipped with this raft, raising our safety requirements to the highest standard ».

Frédéric Blaudeau, Plastimo Marketing & Communication Manager :« Ever since IMOCA boats exist, Plastimo has equipped them with safety gear. This time was different though, our Marketing and R&D teams went a step further in cooperation : together with Kevin and the IMOCA Class, we brainstormed the concept of a product customised for offshore racing conditions while necessarily being compliant with ISO9650 standard. Building on over 40 years of liferaft design and manufacture, our team successfully submitted our new “Plastimo IMOCA liferaft” to Bureau Véritas certification. We are all the happier that technical developments deployed for racing boats often become a standard implemented on recreational boats ».

INFO + : the IMOCA liferaft is a 4-man raft, ISO9650-1A approved and OSR 4.20.1(a) ii compliant.
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