Breton sailor Nicolas Lunven was named skipper of the Holcim-PRB sailboat on Thursday for the next Vendée Globe, after the departure at the beginning of June of Kevin Escoffier, hero of the last edition and suspected of sexual assault. “The Holcim-PRB project continues, it’s already a good thing, with the desire to bring the boat to the 2024 Vendée Globe as planned. And the skipper who will lead this boat is Nicolas Lunven,” a member of the team announced to AFP on Thursday.
By finishing second in the last edition of The Ocean Race, a crewed round-the-world race, the team of the Swiss cement manufacturer Holcim proved that its monohull was capable of playing at the forefront against the other contenders for the next Everest of the seas. But the team's sporting performance was overshadowed by the departure, during the race, of helmsman Kevin Escoffier after having himself mentioned "an alleged incident" with a member of his team that occurred in the United States.
In the process, an investigation was opened by the Paris prosecutor's office following a report from the FFVoile relating to “sexual assault or inappropriate behavior”. The blue and black Imoca was brought back to Lorient to stay at the dock.
Just over a year before the 2024 edition of the Vendée Globe which will set off from Les Sables-d'Olonne on November 10, Holcim-PRB has decided to appoint an experienced navigator to take over the helm of its ship. “The Vendée Globe is becoming reality for me and, with Holcim-PRB, we are aligned on the ambitions. The challenge is great, but we will do everything we can to write the most beautiful page possible in this Vendée Globe,” explained Nicolas Lunven.
Double winner of the Solitaire du Figaro (2009, 2017), this 40-year-old from Vannes has also participated in most of the major offshore racing competitions as a luxury crew member (Transat Jacques Vabre, Transat AG2R, Ocean Race ...). He was also due to take the start of the next “Route du café” on October 29 in Le Havre, in a duo with the British Samantha Davis on the Imoca Initiatives-Coeur. A journey to Martinique that he will ultimately make out of competition.
“Nicolas Lunven’s first race under the colors of Holcim-PRB will be the transatlantic Return to Base (which will leave Martinique for Lorient on November 26, editor’s note),” Holcim-PRB detailed in a press release. “Until then, the skipper will get involved in the boat site and will make the delivery to Martinique at the beginning of November alongside his co-skipper Rosalin Kuiper, who is also joining the team,” specifies the press release.
Questioned by AFP, Holcim-PRB did not wish to comment on the ongoing investigation targeting Kevin Escoffier but, with this new helmsman, the team wanted to “reaffirm its desire to have a lasting project in the 'world of ocean racing'.
Escoffier, 43, has not spoken to the media since an interview given to l'Équipe and Ouest-France, a few days after his departure from The Ocean Race in June, in which he said he was "available sports institutions.
In the meantime, the FFvoile has opened a new disciplinary procedure after having received “reports concerning other inappropriate behavior by Kevin Escoffier towards women”. This procedure was in addition to that opened in June, relating only to “incidents which occurred during the Newport stage of The Ocean Race”, as was specified by the FFVoile.
The federation's disciplinary committee will meet on September 20, in the presence of the skipper, to decide on possible sanctions which could go as far as the withdrawal of his sailor's license.
Kevin Escoffier was one of the heroes of the last edition of the Vendée Globe. Shipwrecked in the storm off the Cape of Good Hope, he jumped into his life raft before being rescued at the last minute by another competitor, Jean Le Cam.