Kito de Pavant adds another chapter of suffering to the masochistic annals of solo sailing

What is it with these solo sailors? You get the impression that they would hack body parts off to finish a round the world race if they had to.

Today was the day that the Groupe Bel team chose to reveal that their skipper in the Barcelona World Race has sailed the last 2,000-odd miles with two broken ribs.

Kito de Pavant, who is sailing with Sébastien Audigane, was crossing the Doldums and was stacking below when he slipped and fell on his back.

“Standing up is the least painful,” he says. “I took the helm a little so that Seb could rest. I really watched my step, even though it wasn’t easy, since the position lying down in the bunk was not the best.

“I am recovering. I am beginning to move normally. I can nearly turn the winches and I think that I will be back to normal at the end of the week.”

He says through gritted teeth. As they are about to enter the Southern Ocean proper.

There are plenty of precedents for this sort of masochistic courage in solo round the world racing. Someone who found himself in an even more painful situation was Welshman Alan Wynne-Thomas in the Vendée Globe in 1992.

He had a bad fall and broke six ribs, two of them in several places. He was on his own, of course, and at great risk of puncturing a lung, but although he was in agony he managed to sail on for 20 days to reach Tasmania.

Earlier in the same race, French sailor Bertrand de Broc’s mainsheet caught round his jaw during a gybe and he almost severed his tongue. Carefully following medical advice over the radio, he sewed it back on.

Four years later in the 1996 race Pete Goss had to operate on his own badly infected elbow. Taking advice from the fleet doctor, he got out a head-torch, scalpel and mirror and successfully operated on it – while taking photos of the procedure. “It was like cutting butter with a knife,” he noted.

Ah, but what is pain, after all, except the feeling of weakness leaving the body?