Medical evacuation for Kiwi Ericsson 4 crew member

Tony Mutter on Ericsson 4. Photo: Hans Berggren - Leg 1 Volvo Ocean Race
At 1800h local time today, Friday, Tony Mutter, of Auckland, New Zealand, was removed from Ericsson 4 via a fishing boat due to medical concerns. Mutter, 39, had been suffering from an infected knee and was receiving antibiotics.

Mutter was transferred onto a fishing boat from Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde Islands. Team representatives took him to a hospital in Mindelo where he was expected to be examined. Once doctors are happy with his condition, Mutter will join his wife and son in Cape Town.

Mutter awoke yesterday with his left knee swollen and painful. Onboard medic Phil Jameson, with assistance from watch captain Stu Bannatyne and directions from on-call race medic Dr. Spike Biggs, administered an anaesthetic, drained the knee of fluid and then lacerated it to remove the infected area.

The difficult decision to transfer Mutter was made early this morning by Ericsson 4 skipper Torben Grael.

'The Race Doctor told us that Tony had to be evacuated because the leg had become significantly more swollen over night, and the uncertainty of how quick his condition will improve,' said Grael. 'Both he and I agreed that it would be a prudent and precautionary measure to evacuate him from the boat. He needs to get proper treatment. In addition once we have passed the Cape Verde Islands, we have a period of some 1,300 nautical miles of open ocean ahead of us.

'Our onboard medics, Phil and Stu, have done a great job. They were told by the race doctor that had we been in the Southern Ocean, they would have to give Tony intravenous fluids with antibiotics,' Grael said.

Mutter is understandably very disappointed.

'It's a tough call, but given the state of the infection an easy call,' said Mutter. 'Bearing in mind that the conditions in which we live onboard are not ideal for dealing with infections, and add to this the increasingly hot and humid conditions as we reach the Equator and the Doldrums, this is for sure the best course of action.

'My priority is to get back to 150 percent fitness and rejoin Ericsson 4 in Cape Town,' Mutter said.

The transfer happened just west of São Vicente. Ericsson 4 did not suspend racing, nor did it receive a replacement for Mutter. It will complete the leg with nine active crew members that now are heading towards the scoring gate outside Brasil and Cape Town.