Sailing-Investigation launched after Ocean Race skipper steps down

Sailing - Vendee Globe - Les Sables-d'Olonne, France - November 8, 2020 PRB skipper Kevin Escoffier during the race REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

(Reuters) - The French Sailing Federation (FFV) is investigating an incident which led to an Ocean Race team skipper quitting the event midway through, and has alerted the French Sports Ministry, it said.

French sailor Kevin Escoffier stepped down from skippering Swiss Team Holcim-PRB at the weekend, announcing the move on Instagram.

"I salute the commitment and the quality of the work of this magnificent team that I have had the honour to lead since the start of the race," he added.

In remarks to sports newspaper L'Equipe, Escoffier referred to "an alleged incident with a member of Team Holcim-PRB" during a stopover in Newport last month.

The yachtsman, 43, told French news agency AFP that he had taken the decision to withdraw from his duties as skipper "in order to respect the race timetable and allow his Team Holcim-PRB to remain fully focused on the final victory".

Team Holcim-PRB did not respond to emailed requests for comment.

Race organisers had said Escoffier was stepping away from the race "for personal reasons".

"At The Ocean Race we respect the integrity of the team and the sport of sailing and agree with Kevin's decision to step down as skipper from Team Holcim-PRB," they added.

On Tuesday, organisers released a statement saying they had been made aware that "an incident" had taken place during the stopover. They said that no formal complaint nor report had been received.

"This is primarily a matter to be dealt with by the team and the regulatory authorities for the sport of sailing," they said.

The FFV told Reuters it was looking into the matter and that it had alerted the French Sports Ministry.

David Graham, CEO of the sport’s governing body World Sailing, said his organisation was aware of the allegations.

"We are working with the relevant stakeholders to ensure this matter is being dealt with appropriately and with the seriousness it merits," he said.

"World Sailing is wholeheartedly committed to ensuring our sport is a safe and welcoming environment for all, and we will take any actions necessary to ensure we fulfil this commitment."

Team Holcim-PRB announced a new crew for the rest of the race and sit just behind top-placed 11th Hour Racing Team, of the U.S., on the leaderboard.

The sixth and penultimate leg starts on Thursday when the boats start a three-day 1,500km sprint from Aarhus in Denmark to The Hague, via Germany’s Kiel.

(Reporting by Ossian Shine, editing by Ed Osmond)

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