For Volvo Ocean Race Puma bowman and Mooloolaba Yacht Club sailor, Casey Smith, sitting on the sidelines in Newport, Rhode Island is a tough call.
PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG bowman Casey Smith from Australia waves to the crowds as they finish first on leg 5 from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Relegated to the sick list on arrival in Brazil after suffering a reoccurrence of an earlier back injury which saw him confined to his bunk with debilitating pain for the early part of the 6,705 mile southern ocean leg, Smith has been receiving intensive treatment in America while his crew mates on Puma finally take hold of the eight month race, leading the fleet all the way from Itajai in Brazil towards the finish in Miami.
With the risk of further damage being considered a real possibility, the decision to stay on land for the race leg to Miami has been worthwhile. 'I was in physiotherapy the day I got home (from Brazil) and have been going three days a week plus doing strengthening exercises daily. I didn't have much range of movement to start with, but I am now able to touch my toes again and feel happy that it’s repairing well. '
Back out on the ocean and with less than 400 miles to the finish, Puma continues to hold the lead over the Volvo Ocean Race fleet, but only slightly. Throughout this leg Puma has had to fight to stay ahead, sometimes by only just over two miles. Sitting on the edge of the seat throughout last 18 tensioned filled days has been Smith. 'I have been keeping an eye on the scheds and keeping my fingers crossed that the boys can pull off another win. It would be great for the team to have another good result and really put some pressure on the leader board. There's a lot of racing left to go and as we have seen with the boats, things can happen and points can be lost.'
While the time in Newport with his family has been good for him, it’s a situation that doesn’t sit comfortably with Smith. He misses not being out on the ocean racing on his beloved Mar Mostro. And, with anything more than low-key media reports being issued from the boats being considered as possible outside assistance, he has no way of knowing how the mechanical systems on board are operating, a role which he has played key part in since the start of the race back in October last year.
Smith now has one week left before he heads south to Miami to reunite with the Puma team. 'It feels great to be able to say that and it’s been a focus and goal to help me get through this experience.
'To any young people out there up and coming in the sailing world, look after your back. You don't appreciate being young and bullet proof until you go to move a sail and bang, oh no...' Smith said.
Volvo Ocean Race website