Spanish boat “Telefónica” is still being fine-tuned for the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012 which will take the fleet from Cape Town (South Africa) to Abu Dhabi. It's not only the 'machine' that's in 'boxes' right now, but her crew too have been resting up and getting back on physical form since they stepped onto shore in South Africa.
Laying the groundwork
At every finish it's necessary to set up a medical unit to check the physical shape of each of the eleven “Telefónica” crewmen at the end of the leg. The Team Telefónica medical services, including Coach and Department Coordinator Iñigo Losada, Doctor Pablo Díaz-Munío and Physiotherapist José Ramón Sánchez are in charge of this, although it's a job that begins well before the leg actually finishes.
In order to carry out all of the necessary tests, important fieldwork must first be undertaken by the Health Department. “We get here a few days before the guys finish,” explains Team Telefónica Doctor, Spaniard Pablo Díaz-Munío. “We need to do that so that we can get the logistics in place. We get a lot of help from the organisation's Medical Coordinator who, for example, looks for the most suitable hospitals to work with.” It's then the Health Department's job to go to those hospitals personally to check them out first hand. “We also do it to get to know the route.”
When it comes to physical exercise, Castellón's Iñigo Losada says: “We look for facilities to use for the recovery programme, which is usually a gym. From experience we know that the crew prefers to be in an environment that motivates them to train and if that's close to the accommodation, even better.”
However, it's not just the crew from on board the yacht that the Health Department deal with, but the entire shore crew, including the sails team, rigging, administration, composites, communication, logistics... The Doctor is clear about that: “We insist very much on the 'team' ethos. The difference between 'group' and 'team' is that in a group everyone does one thing and the result is the sum of all of these. That's never going to take you as far as being a 'team'. The focus on team here goes beyond the crew. This is all about interdependence and success or failure in this regatta depends on us being a 'team' and not a 'group', which is why medical attention for all of them is a logical necessity.”
The importance of that first check-up: Pass!
As soon as the guys a back in port, they tie up, greet family and friends, enjoy the 'champagne experience' and then it's down to the Health Department to carry out the initial post-leg check-up: “We take a blood test and run through a brief questionnaire with them to catch the most pressing issues, as well as having a weigh in and carrying out pinch tests,” explains the “Telefónica” coach, Iñigo Losada.
After the first 24 hours, the entire crew must also go through an obligatory session with Physio José Ramón Sánchez and the Team Telefónica Doctor to take a closer look at the initial medical evaluation, and to look at functional issues such as joints, muscle mass, etc. “From there we design a personalised programme for each individual to follow,” says Losada.
Following 21 days and 5 hours of racing, the doctor from the Spanish region of Cantabria admits that “medically they are not in the greatest shape. After 6,500 miles that's to be expected, but they are pretty worn indeed,” he says about the Spanish crew.
“Yiyo” added that an important factor this time was that “unlike in other editions of the race, none of the crew returned with an injury or having been involved in an accident, or anything serious at all. Of course, the guys are physically worn out: that's the result of a leg to which they gave their all and 22 days racing at sea like that shows. We are really happy with what they've done and that we've been lucky that there have been no serious issues. We're confident that we can do a good job and get everyone back into very good shape for the next leg.”
The recovery period begins for the crew as soon as they tie up at the quayside: “The first few hours are the most important,” says Pablo Díaz-Munío. Over the first few hours it's important to carefully control what foods are taken in. They might have been dreaming about a big juicy steak or a bulky burger the day before, but foods can't be consumed in wild amounts straight away. The Health Department makes sure that the first foods to be eaten by the “Telefónica” crew are fruit “peeled and diced,” points out “Yiyo”. “After that, it's a salad... and after that they can dig into a burger. We try to control and take care of that whole process,” says Doctor Díaz -Munío.
The crew led by Iker Martínez, winners of the leg and current leaders in this round the world regatta are going through the recovery phase right now, where Physio José Ramón Sánchez's job is also vital.
While they are here in South Africa “they must rest when and as much as they need to. We need them to eat what we know they need to and for them to build themselves back up to physical strength. It means a reactivation of the whole organism and gaining back the lost muscle mass,” concludes “Yiyo” Losada.
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