Velux 5 Oceans skipper diagnosed with broken rib

Velux 5 Oceans skipper Zbigniew Gutkowski onboard his yacht Operon Racing at the start of Ocean Sprint 4
Ainhoa Sanchez/Velux 5 Oceans
Velux 5 Oceans skipper Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski is on doctor’s orders to rest after being diagnosed with a broken rib. Gutek will remain in port for the time being and will take the time to carry out repairs.

The Polish ocean racer was forced to make for land 12 days into ocean sprint four from Punta del Este in Uruguay to Charleston in the USA after a string of problems on his yacht Operon Racing which culminated in his forestay breaking. After arriving in the Brazilian port of Fortaleza on Sunday, Gutek set about making arrangements for the repairs to Operon Racing and had hoped to be at sea again by tomorrow.

The X-ray that showed Gutek's rib was broken - Velux 5 Oceans 2011
Zbigniew / Velux 5 Ocean
But after consulting a doctor about injuries to his ribs picked up in a fall earlier in the leg, Gutek was forced to reassess his plans. An x-ray of his ribs revealed one of them is broken and dangerously close to his heart and lungs, while another is cracked.

The doctor has advised the 36-year-old to rest to allow for the bones to heal enough to make a safe solo passage to Charleston. With no time limit imposed on technical stops, Gutek will use the time in port to carry out repairs to Operon Racing including to its keel, bowsprit, alternator and forestay.

Gutek said: 'The broken rib is badly damaged and the ends of broken bone are very sharp, so when I cough or make some physical effort and twist my torso muscles the bones move and dig my flesh. The doctor has suggested I don’t go to sea alone right now and instead wait here to let the bones recover a bit. I have never considered retiring from the race. This stop will allow me to carry out repairs. It’s better that I wait instead of risking my life.'

Currently placed second in the overall race rankings, Gutek led the fleet out of Punta del Este on March 27 but had slipped to fourth position when he was forced to turn round just eight miles north of the Equator. Gutek has just over 3,000 miles left to sail on ocean sprint four, and will aim to leave Fortaleza once he has recovered. He will aim to be in Charleston in advance of the start of ocean sprint five which starts on May 14.

Positions at 0600 UTC:
Skipper / distance to finish (nm) / distance to leader (nm) / distance covered in last 24 hours (nm) / average speed in last 24 hours (kts)
Brad Van Liew, Le Pingouin: 1700.1 / 0 / 285.1/ 11.9
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 1858.6 / 158.4/ 296.1/ 12.3
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 2046.2 / 346.1 / 314.1 / 13.1
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 3205 / 1504.9 / 0 / 0

Velux 5 Oceans website