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18 February 2002, 10:10 am
Finale To Rio
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Volvo Ocean Race

Leading yacht illbruck could stretch their lead back to 23 miles. They have kept the nerves over the last few days and went straight on while everybody gained. As if they had known that their turn will come for gaining back what they had lost before.
Meanwhile the fight for second is as intense as ever. Tyco and ASSA ABLOY are within sight of each other, doing the same speed in equal conditions with the same distance to the finish. As the wind is forecast to drop over the course of the day the final result could come down to trimming and sail manoeuvres. Unfortunate djuice has dropped to fifth and is suffering in less wind than the yachts ahead. A disappointed Paul Cayard wrote that the wind didn't behave as expected. The header they were looking for never materialized and they were left in calm conditions, doing just two knots when the wind dropped from ten to five knots in just half an hour.

News Corp will be relieved about the lighter conditions as it takes pressure off their emergency rudder and the danger of losing a point to the chasing Amer Sports Too is becoming less.

The Pain of Thawing Out

As the V.O.60s have headed further north towards Rio de Janeiro and the temperatures have started to soar, the crew have been experiencing excruciating pain as their chilblains and minor frostbite injuries have warmed up. Some of the teams' helmsmen have experienced repetitive strain injury from the rigours of steering their boats in the wild conditions of the Southern Ocean. Others will have cracked hands due to exposure to cold and wet for a length of time, and most will be experiencing the unpleasant and very uncomfortable feeling of repetitive salt chafe, which normally produces very unpleasant and painful rashes and swelling.

When hands crack in the Southern Ocean and you have had your fingers wrapped around a sheet trimming a sail for hours on end, the healing process is much longer and more trying. Add salt to the wound, literally and this will provide extreme pain and swelling and makes any movement of the fingers extremely difficult. Chilblains are another uncomfortable and debilitating affliction. They are a non-freezing cold injury, which appear red and swollen and can be extremely tender and may itch. One thing is certain, once chilblains have developed the treatment to minimise pain and further suffering is to remove the patient from further exposure and to rewarm them slowly. Not really a solution for a Volvo Ocean Race sailor!

For a number of the sailors the thermals have now been peeled off, with these clothes being discarded for the first time in around ten days and there has been a welcome change to clean shorts and tops. This has even prompted impromptu washing with wet wipes, shaving and general clean ups and has promoted an all over feeling of well being.

To start with a number of cuts, bruises and sprains were reported as the boats emerged from the freezing temperatures of the Southern Ocean. On Tyco Dave Endean had landed hard on his knee on a padeye, which was uncomfortable in freezing conditions, but as the temperatures increased, so did the swelling and for a few days he was confined to his bunk.

Paul Cayard reported from Amer Sports One that the boys were enjoying being clean, "Everyone is going for the big clean up: shaving, showers, new clothes." The crew were suffering, however, "It is amazing how tired and beaten up everyone is. Everyone has some small cuts that won't heal. A few of us have slightly more serious problems. I have the thumb and index finger numb on both hands. I think it is from the tendonitis and I really hope it goes away soon. Roger [Nilson] burned his hand today with rope on a spinnaker take down. It is not good when the doctor gets hurt."

Billy [Peter Merrington] wrote of the thawing out process and the fact that numb was turning to pain, "I cannot even begin to describe the joy of throwing aside the thermal wear and baring the back to the afternoon rays for a time. The sun cream was dug out for the first time in a while. My foot problem arising from possible minor frostbite in the toes and end of the feet also seems to be coming along. I have upgraded them from totally numb to partially numb and sore today. Let's hope they improve soon but it seems to be a slow process."

On Amer Sports Too, Lisa McDonald and crew were suffering from chilblains and the warmer weather was again causing pain, "I have learned a new word this leg - and the meaning of.... chilblains. Having got used to numb cold feet and hands for so long, the stinging, achy and sore sensations of the thaw are proving very uncomfortable for this crew. Hopefully within a few days the aches and pains will go and we will all acclimatise to our new surrounds."

With only a day or so to the finish of leg 4, all the sailors will be looking forward to the care and attention they will receive on their arrival. It will be a time to rest and recuperate and make sure that the minor sprains and injuries, cuts, bruises and chilblains are dealt with properly ashore. Just as the boats have taken a pounding, so have the sailors and it will now be up to the shore teams to make sure that the boats and the sailing teams are well prepared for the start of leg 5 to Miami on March 9.

Volvo Ocean Race Position Report, Day 23, 0358 GMT:

Position Yacht DTF CMG SMG DTL Points Overall
1 Illbruck 134 13 10.9 0 29
2 Team Tyco 157 20 9.7 23 19
3 Assa Abloy 157 14 9.7 23 21
4 Amer Sports One 157 16 9.3 23 23
5 dJuice 163 19 9.1 29 14
6 News Corp 485 21 9.9 351 19
7 Amer Sports Too 731 42 9.4 597 7
8 Team SEB - - - - 12
Volvo Ocean Race Press/News Editor
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