Yachting: Puma decide against dropping off injured duo at Chathams

Puma's Tony Mutter lowers his shoulders against a giant wave over the deck. Photo / Amory Ross-PUMA Ocean Racing
Puma's Tony Mutter lowers his shoulders against a giant wave over the deck. Photo / Amory Ross-PUMA Ocean Racing

Puma have decided against a detour to the Chatham Islands to drop off two injured crew and will instead remain with the rest of the fleet and push on for South America in the Volvo Ocean Race.

Helmsman Thomas Johanson dislocated his shoulder after being washed across the boat's cockpit by a wave and bowman Casey Smith was confined to his bunk by a recurrence of a pre-existing back injury during a routine sail change.

Brutal wind and sea conditions made life difficult for all of the boats in the first 48 hours since setting off from Auckland on Sunday and Abu Dhabi returned to Auckland for repairs.

"I feel like I've gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson,'' Puma skipper Ken Read said. "Everybody in the fleet's body and mind is pretty shot right now.

"Thomas found himself on the leeward side of the cockpit, crumpled in a heap. He was coming on deck and got blindsided by this wave and got crunched.''

After taking medical advice from race and team doctors, Puma onboard medic Jono Swain successfully re-located Johanson's shoulder.

"Jono just slowly popped his shoulder back in place and all of a sudden you saw his eyes open up,'' Read said. "It was instantaneous relief. He was back on deck today having a drive, so he's recuperating quite quickly.''

However, Read said Smith's back injury was a trickier scenario which they were treating with pain medication and could still require him to be taken off the boat at Cape Horn.

"At one point we were heading to the Chatham Islands to get rid of both of them,'' Read confirmed. "But then Thomas' shoulder got popped back in and we had a long talk to Casey.

"He's a tough guy, he's a team guy, so essentially we said let's at least get to Cape Horn and if there's no improvement by then, we'll figure out a way to get rid of him. But up until then there's not a whole lot of options.''

"Hopefully the medication will start to work a bit better and we'll see a light at the end of the tunnel. Right now he's still in pain.''

After two days of relentless punishment from high winds and huge waves on the fifth leg from Auckland to Itajai, Brazil, the top five boats are set for some relief over the next 24 hours as two high pressure systems bring lighter conditions.

The predicted light, unstable breezes could push the boats hard south in search of stronger westerly winds but complicating matters is the fact the ice exclusion zone is now set around 47 degrees south, much further north than Camper had hoped.

The team New Zealand boat was in fourth, 15.6 miles behind leaders Groupama, but the top five boats were all within 18 miles of each other as they dive south in the hope of finding fresh westerlies.

"The picture ahead doesn't look brilliant for anyone, as we have to move across this ridge that stands between us and going fast,'' Telefonica navigator Andrew Cape said.

"It's going to be a pretty slow next 24 hours and the first to break through is going to be going great.''

- APNZ

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