Nagel raring to go after back injury

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  • Back on board: Emily Nagel

    Back on board: Emily Nagel


Emily Nagel has made a full recovery from back injury and is anxious to rejoin the Volvo Ocean Race.

The Bermudian sailor, who is a sail trimmer with Dutch syndicate Team AkzoNobel, suffered a damaged nerve and bruising to her back during a mishap in heavy seas on the third leg of the race around the world from Cape Town, South Africa, to Melbourne, Australia.

“During the first day we were headed out of Cape Town in 35 plus knots and a rough sea state, while down below fetching a new set of sheets we hit a large wave while already heeled over at 25-30 degrees,” Nagel told The Royal Gazette.

“I was thrown backwards across the boat, backflipping over the engine bay, landing with my back across a carbon longitudinal [an inch-wide solid wall, knee height when standing]. Luckily the guys responded quickly and had me in a bunk to the high side checking me over.

“I was very lucky and didn’t actually break any vertebrae. I suffered a great deal of bruising and a damaged nerve which left me in a lot of pain for the leg. I am way too stubborn to stay in my bunk so insisted on getting back on deck once the painkillers had kicked in.

“Dealing with an injury on-board is as much of mental challenge as it is physical. Through years of sailing, swimming and triathlons I’m not new to pushing through pain, that’s pretty normal.

“The hardest part I found during Leg 3 was not being able to perform at 100 per cent and the mental drain that took on me. The feeling of letting your team down combined with the physical pain is tough and can take it’s toll and staying positive can be hard. This is where the lessons of perseverance came in.”

The 23-year-old, who has a master’s degree in engineering with naval architecture, has since recovered from her ordeal after being replaced for the fourth leg of the race from Melbourne to Hong Kong.

“I’ve had this leg off and with physio and gym I’m happy to say I’m back to 100 per cent,” she said. “I’m looking forward to getting back on-board and sailing it the rest of the way around the world.”

Nagel, who worked full-time with SoftBank Team Japan during the America’s Cup in Bermuda last year, is living her dream of competing in the Volvo Ocean Race.

“The race so far has been truly incredible,” she said. “It has been the greatest challenge I have ever faced both physically and mentally.

“There have been a great many lessons learnt from on-board skills to lessons in patience and perseverance. There is a lot of learning when it comes to keeping a level head.

“Each of the legs is anywhere from eight to 26 days long and you have to keep focused for that entire time. Even when off watch you have to be ready at a moment’s notice for the next manoeuvre. So not only do you learn how to deal with the ups and downs of a three-week race but you have to deal with sleep deprivation, physical exhaustion and the joys of eating freeze-dried food!

“The racing at times can be truly terrifying, going at 30 knots of boat speed at times in big sea states, not being clipped on is not an option. When grinding, if hit by a wave, you can be sent flying. The lucky ones get thrown into the pedestal, if unlucky you get washed to the end of your tether. It just becomes a part of life though and you keep pushing until the end.”

Nagel is the first Bermudian to compete in the Volvo Race.

“The support from all of Bermuda has been incredible and I’m so proud to be representing our little island,” she said. “I have a little flag on-board and have introduced the whole team to Bermuda Rum Cake.”

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Published Jan 18, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 17, 2018 at 9:43 pm)

Nagel raring to go after back injury

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