Fraser Brown chatted to about his accident during the closing stages of VOR Leg 2 22/2/06

Fraser Brown, crewman aboard the Australian VOR entry Brunel, was seriously injured on the approach to Melbourne on the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Cape Town to Melbourne. Brown, now recovering from the accident chatted to about what happened…

“Seven days before finishing in Melbourne which was about three days before Eclipse island, around 43 south we were lifted (wind swinging aft on us by about 40 deg) into a head sea. At the time of the accident myself and the bowman were dragging the fractional spin forward onto the bow to do a sail change because of the lifting pressure, the others were being woken up to come and help with the sail change.

“I was dragging the sail forward with my back to the bow we went over quite a big swell which surprised us on the bow, then the boat very quickly went over a second swell this time the boat went up so quick I got air borne. I new the inner forestay was just behind me so I tried to grab it with my left hand to get some attachment back to the boat. As the boat was going back down I found the inner forestay but missed the stay slightly and my arm went between the inner forestay and the luff of the sail, (the sail is hanked onto the inner forestay so there’s a gap between the stay and the luff of the sail).

“When the boat hit the water again I remember looking at my arm and getting that feeling that it wasn’t part of my body anymore. I went completely numb for two or three seconds. My elbow looked like it was in a position it could never normally get too.

“I pulled my arm out in some serious pain and all I could do was lay my arm on my chest, the guys dragged me off the foredeck like you would to a sail and bundled me down below.

“Initially I thought I had broken my arm but that is probably just a natural feeling to the amount of pain. I did move my fingers straight after which I was able to do so I figured it probably wasn’t broken. Then I thought I had dislocated my shoulder or my elbow, it was really hard to work out which one was worse as they were both really painful, it was difficult to diagnose.

“I put a cold bandage on my arm to give it some compression expecting bruising, took some pain killers and hit the rack for about eight hours. I couldn’t stay in the rack any longer so got up and tried to do some more treatment but getting around the boat was extremely difficult. I kept it in a sling for around 48 hours. Sailing and being on the boat was difficult trying to pull sails around with one arm or grinding with one arm. The boats are so physical all I could really do is ease a runner or a sheet when gybing.

“Once in Melbourne I saw Timo Malinen the race doctor who referred me to a shoulder specialist at the Olympic park in Melbourne, he referred me to the hospital for a MRI scan on my shoulder and x-rays on my elbow. The result of this was a compressed fracture in my ball and socket joint.

“The doc in Melbourne said: ‘You either have an operation or you rest for six weeks taking it easy to let the tendon get strong again and then work on getting full movement back in your shoulder.’ The doc decided that an operation wasn’t what he wanted to do so he told me that I had three to four months minimum of rehabilitation.”

Brown has now resigned himself to a long period of rest and has come to terms with the fact that there’ll be no more Volvo Ocean Racing until his shoulder is working 100 per cent again.