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real life

on board

real life

Leg 5, Day 3
21 March 2012

Ken Read, Skipper, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 

I am sure it is well documented by now – we had a fairly active first couple of days. Everything pretty much happened according to plan. Long beat out through the Coromandel and Great Barrier Island, increasing breeze as we headed off on starboard. Lose all wind instruments just after dark the first night of the storm. Tack in a front to port and haul the mail southeast towards the westerly winds that lie to the south, all in a head-on wave pattern that was incredibly violent and wet. 

On the way south is another transition of very little wind that we are currently smack in the middle of. The calm before the storm, so to speak. 

In the bizarre department is the fact that four of the six boats are sitting here right next to each other, slatting in no breeze. Obviously our friends on Abu Dhabi had a tough first day. And CAMPER isn’t too far off our radar, to the west looking to break through this breathless zone first. 

That is the tactical take on things. Lets talk real life for a second.   

We certainly had a scare or two in the first 24 hours of this leg, and to be honest the health and well-being is always top priority for this skipper. Long, long, long before any result in any race. So when Casey took to his bunk with a bum back and Thomas took a wave to the posterior that shot him across the cockpit like he was blasted out of a cannon, there were certainly decisions to be made and phone calls to make.   

First off, the Volvo medical staff and our own Dr. Ruth McIlrath, Mike Cecchi and Bert Reid all were incredibly responsive. Dr. Ruth and Dr. Spike (Volvo) on the medical side and Mike and Bert on the PT and hopeful recovery side. We also have three trained medics on board and all had their hand in helping both of our fallen comrades. Michi, Rome and head doctor on board, Jono Swain, took it on.   

First Casey. He was in the bunk and in pain pretty much hours after the start. He was simply moving a sail. Felt a pop. Couldn’t move. Anti-inflammatory and pain meds immediately. He was hurting. Was it a disk or muscular? That was a big issue for us. A disk and we were likely heading to the Chatham Islands to unload him. Muscular we could hopefully deal with. The prognosis was unclear until a set of tests were done to him on board after about 48 hours. Essentially, the tests were to determine if it was a disk problem. Four simple aided activities with his legs and toes. If he screamed bloody terror from the pain, then it was most likely a disk. If he didn’t, it was most likely muscular.   

No scream. Whew. Massive relief. So, time to get him better, and I am happy to report that he is standing next to me as I write and just did some minor stretching, and he was laughing at himself earlier. All a good sign. 

Next Thomas. Not in order of seriousness but simply because his first initial T comes after C.   

Thomas took a good shot to the shoulder courtesy of the leeward side of the cockpit. He was crumpled up as the wave washed away and was assisted back to the hatch where he couldn’t move his right shoulder. Clearly dislocated. Clearly in pain. We got him to the media man bunk and made some calls. I’m no doctor so please don’t quote me on all of this, but essentially he was left to rest and relax for a short bit, then left his bad wing hanging off the bunk to try and let the shoulder pop back in on its own. Next, led by Dr. Ruth, Jono slowly grabbed his elbow and eased his forearm to the side and voila! Shoulder popped right back into place. The look on his face was priceless. He shifted from sheer agony while it was happening to eyes wide open and speechless, essentially saying through telepathy that it worked. His shoulder looked like a real person’s shoulder again. Clearly with the toughness of a real hockey player, Thomas has made a fantastic recovery, and 24 hours later he was back on the wheel after the craziness died down. He is absolutely feeling better by the minute. No need for a Chatham Islands stop for him either. 

We continue. And, we continue with the hope that our team will be whole again by the time we get into the big downwind breeze expected.   

I have to admit it was quite a scare for the skipper of this vessel. The thought of having to drop one or two of the guys off someplace was very real for a time – to get both fixed and healthy if we couldn’t do it ourselves. Then, the idea of continuing on without the safety net of the rest of the fleet is a bit daunting down here. The Southern Ocean is lonely enough even when surrounded by five of your racing compadres. To be way behind the fleet and left off the front needing to make up big miles would create a "go it alone" situation. And that is never very much fun. 

It is all about the boys. The most important part of racing. Everything else is very much secondary compared to the health of the troops. Lets hope we have seen the last of injuries on this leg and for the rest of the lap around the planet for that matter. It’s no fun for anyone.   

– Kenny