Meet one of ocean racing’s toughest characters

Breaking a rib would stop most people from starting the hardest sailing race, but not Tony Rae.
By Josh Sampiero

What happens when you break a rib before a sailing race that involves a 6,487-nautical-mile leg from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa? You raise the sails and do the race anyway, of course. At least that's what you do if you're Tony Rae on Team Vestas Wind. The Kiwi – who might be toughest sailor in the race, but is definitely the oldest at 53 years old – treated the injury with some makeshift protection from the sailing gear on hand. (Don't worry – he's also the team medic!)

His biggest concern? “I didn't want my mum to worry,” says Rae.

Tony Rae during a milder moment
Tony Rae during a milder moment © Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind/Volvo Ocean Race

The funny part? It's not the first time the veteran sailor has busted two ribs. “I cracked two coming into port in New Zealand during the last VOR,” he says.

On any given day during the race, you'll find the sailor manning the helm, grinding winches, or harnessed to a trapeze while dealing with sails – all high-risk manoeuvres when the bow is constantly bashed by waves.

It's a long, gruelling race, and you've got be ready for it

– Tony Rae


Rae during a rare moment of repose
Rae during a rare moment of repose © Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind/Volvo Ocean Race

Currently, on the leg from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi, Team Vestas Wind is sitting 18-nautical-miles off the leg leader in the tightest contest the Volvo Ocean Race has ever seen.

To catch up with the race, head over to, where you'll be able to find daily updates and chart the progress of the boats through the Indian Ocean.

Want a first-hand look at what it's like to be on a VOR boat? Check out Life of the Extreme on – new episodes every tuesday!



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