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Vendée Globe: Back to life, back to reality

by Vendée Globe 17 Feb 09:22 GMT

When they return to dry land after some three months at seas the sailors are physically and mentally exhausted and need to recover, get some real sleep and return to normal life.

They have lost weight, they often feel out of touch with the realities of life ashore, but at the same time many are already hankering after the dream of doing it all again. Jean Yves Chauve, the Vendée Globe doctor since the first edition back in 1989, examines the state of the competitors.

"Since I got back, I keep waking up thinking I failed to hear the noise from the sensors and alarms," Benjamin Dutreux a few days after he finished. The days and nights for the skippers after their return ashore are full of ups and downs, showing how tired they really are. For several weeks, they will have to deal with feeling exhausted and that may continue for up to six months. "The body really suffers. But it is the mental stress that is more important than the physical pains," stressed Jean-Yves Chauve.

Really you can see how much they had been through just by looking at their faces on the pontoons or seeing how unsteady they were on their legs or how thin they had become.

"Some have lost up to a stone. They now need to get their body back in balance, working on their legs, which have not worked hard and their upper body. I can see lots of small injuries, bruises, fractured ribs because of the violent knocks they have received to their back," added the Vendée Globe doctor. As recently as yesterday, Alexia Barrier sailing to the west of the Cape Verde Islands sent back a video explaining how she had had a violent fall.

"Alexia has probably injured her ITB transverse band (where the muscles are attached to the spinal column - editor's note). There isn't any treatment, but it can be very painful," commented the doctor, who talked to the sailor.

An exceptional lifestyle in extreme conditions weakens the defences

On top of that the sailors have to deal with land borne viruses and that is even more the case this year. The body's defences are weakened, as they have not been exposed to any diseases, living in what is practically a sterile environment.

"They will be weak if they encounter Covid 19, but also other viruses. We have seen many respiratory ailments, because the body has to learn how to deal with bugs and viruses." added Jean-Yves Chauve, who has also noticed hearing problems. "This is due to the constant slamming and banging against the carbon hull which amplifies the noise. They feel mentally exhausted and it is quite common to experience tinnitus."

The return to dry land means it is time for the warriors to rest. This rest is necessary if they want to race again, and they all say they want to do this all over again. It is as if they were addicted to the Southern Ocean, probably because they have discovered things deep within themselves, which remain unseen in normal daily life. "It's amazing how they completely wipe the hard moments from their minds," concluded Jean-Yves Chauve.

Find out more...

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