Russian class 2 competitor arrives in Cape Town despite operating on his elbow and suffering food poisoning en route.
Russian sailor Viktor Yazykov-who turned 50 over the course of a voyage during which he suffered food poisoning; hurt his knee; lost a shroud, a rigging wire that supports his mast; pressed on with balky self-steering gear; and performed surgery on his abscessed right elbow-guided his 40-foot homemade vessel Wind of Change past the finish line here this afternoon to complete one of the most difficult passages in the annals of the Around Alone race. “So many troubles,” he said, shortly after his mid-afternoon arrival (1252 GMT). “In all my life, I’ve never had so many bad things happen to me in such a short time.”
Despite all that, Yazykov’s elapsed time voyage for the 7,000-mile voyage-he started on October 2 after arriving late in Charleston on his qualifying sail-was 44 days, 12 hours, easily the fastest time ever posted for the trip by a 40-foot monohull. But Yazykov was given an 11d, 07h, 30m penalty for missing the arrival deadline, and his race clock began running when the fleet set out on September 26. Thus Yazykov’s official time for the leg is 62d, 04h, 07m, 25s.
Yazykov, who was forced to take a scalpel to his swollen elbow late last week, said that his upper arm now seems fine, but that he has lost feeling in his right hand. “It doesn’t work, it feels like it’s sleeping,” he said. He added that his greatest worry when undergoing the surgical procedure-which he did under the satellite-connected supervision of Dr. Dan Carlin of the World Clinic in Boston, who relayed step-by-step instructions via COMSAT email-was leaving the boat to fend for itself for the 22 hours he was totally out of commission. “I was afraid a squall might come through and I couldn’t do anything,” he said. “I can manage most of the jobs when the weather is okay, but it’s difficult in rough weather. It’s dangerous to be on deck.”
Yazykov originally injured the elbow during his qualifier, then aggravated it further on Leg 1 when he banged it hard while down below. The final straw came when he was forced up his mast in a Force 10 gale to rig a replacement shroud for his mast, a job he accomplished using spare Spectra halyards, but one that took five hours and seven trips aloft. “[The jury rig] was great, maybe twice as strong as before,” he said. “But that’s when the real trouble [with the elbow] began.” It was not Yazykov’s only serious problem. He also endured two bouts of food poisoning, which he learned was caused by eating the moisture-absorbing packets that come in freeze-dried food. “So stupid it’s incredible,” said Yazykov. “They should put some big signs on those packages so that doesn’t happen.”
Even so, Yazykov sailed a spectacular first leg. When asked if he was pleased with his Steve Baker-designed “Open 40,” he said, “More than pleased. She’s doing everything I want. My time could’ve been better, but my autopilot worked only about 15-percent of the time. I only used two sails, the main and a small inner jib with full battens, most of the trip. I only had four sails onboard. But my boat is remarkable. With all that went wrong, to do this voyage in 44 days, it’s remarkable.” Yazykov’s little ship is obviously ready for more. A waiting doctor from a visiting Russian vessel was on hand as his rugged countryman arrived. He’ll begin to determine if Yazykov is ready as well.