The crews aboard the VO70 boats eat and drink at least twice as much as they do ashore. Even so, they lose weight. Quite simply, they use up more than they take in.
”The competition is extremely demanding. At sea, there is no real rest”, says Timo Malinen, the senior doctor for the Volvo Ocean Race.
The sailing is primary. Everything else is secondary. Crews sometimes keep quiet about injuries and illness in case their competitors find out.
In the last race, Grant Dalton on board Amer Sports One broke several ribs when the boat missed stays. But no one notified the organisers that they had a problem.
In that race, the stress levels of the crew aboard the SEB boat were measured. This time, wave movement is being recorded. All boats are fitted with a wave height sensor. The aim is to study the effects of constant motion on the human body.
The thesis is that although the g-forces aboard a VO70 boat in high seas are not severe enough to damage the brain, they can cause damage to muscles, cartilage and tissues.
The Volvo Ocean Race organisation is doing its best to prevent injury.
”Each of the teams has been given a ”medical map”, with analyses of the medical problems experienced in the previous race”, explains Timo Malinen.
”They have also been given advice on sleep, nutrition, clothing and how to prepare the body for the competition”.
The most common injuries on board are due to unbalanced working posture and accidents during cooking. Helmsmen suffer from pain in shoulders and wrists, since they persistently hold the same positions for hour after hour. Deck hands hurt their backs grinding in winches. Other common ailments are sprains, skin problems, constipation and haemorrhoids.
Once ashore, injured crewmembers are treated at a mobile clinic, headed by Timo Malinen. If further treatment is necessary, he refers them to local specialists.
But the crews can handle quite a lot themselves. All of them have gone on a course in survival at sea. This also included training in first aid.
Two people on each boat have had more advanced medical training. They are trained to stitch wounds, use splints and apply plaster casts. They can also make intravenous injections, open airways and insert temporary fillings in teeth.
All boats carry three emergency bags, a small orange one containing antibiotics and suture materials, a medium-sized yellow one with plaster of Paris and a selection of medicines, and a large grey bag. The grey bag is only to be opened in serious cases. It contains bags of plasma, essential in the event of massive loss of blood, and 21 litres of saline solution, enough to treat one person for one week.
”I would willingly be treated by the trained crew aboard the VO70 boats”, says Timo Malinen.
”This year they are more knowledgeable and better trained than ever before.
For pictures and more information concerning the Volvo Ocean Race please go to http://www.volvooceanrace.org/multimedia/
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