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Stricken Crewman Feeling Better

Sailing: Kilpatrick is 35 pounds lighter than his usual weight but has regained appetite and been released by doctors. He plans to rejoin crew.

November 28, 2001|RICH ROBERTS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Keith Kilpatrick went ashore under his own power in Western Australia on Tuesday, 35 pounds under his normal weight and trying to eat everything he could find.

The Long Beach sailor, 40, was taken off the 64-foot Amer Sports One boat in the Volvo Ocean Race 15 miles from shore near dusk. He had been unable to keep food or liquids down for more than a week because of an intestinal obstruction. His only nourishment was from small portions of soup and nine bags of intravenous solutions administered by Roger Nilson, Amer Sports One's navigator and an orthopedic physician by profession.

Kilpatrick's wife Tara said by phone, "It's shocking for me to see how much [weight] he's lost. He has visibly lost a lot of muscle. It's scary looking.

"Other than that, he's all right. The doctor cleared him. He ate [solid] food ... in the hospital."

What did he eat first?

"The first thing he had to eat was some chocolate chip cookies I had in my bag for myself," Tara said. "He started rummaging through all my things, like, 'I know you have food in here somewhere."'

By the time he got off the boat, Kilpatrick was one of the most famous sailors in the world, along with skipper Grant Dalton of New Zealand, who is racing around the world for the seventh time.

"It's amazing what you have to do to get on the sports page," Kilpatrick told The Times after leaving the hospital Wednesday morning, Australia time. "One day when I was lying in the bunk, Grant got off the [satellite] phone and said to me, 'Keith, you've made it. You're on the front page of the New Zealand Herald. It took me years to get there. All you had to do was come down once to the Southern Ocean and get sick."'

Kilpatrick, who is 6 feet 2 and normally weighs 215 pounds, weighed in at 180 at the touristy former whaling village of 28,000 where he landed. But he probably started the leg underweight after losing about 20 pounds on the first, 31-day leg of the race, from England to Cape Town, South Africa.

Kilpatrick's departure leaves the crew one man short at 11. Others had to perform his duties, once he became incapacitated, but he hopes to rejoin the crew in Sydney for the next leg of the race that starts Dec. 26 as part of the traditional Sydney-Hobart race. The race will end at Kiel, Germany, in June.

"The idea of me getting off now is so that I have seven or eight days to recuperate and get to the level that the boys will be when they get off in Sydney," Kilpatrick said. "I am looking forward to the next leg."

According to Tara, the problem might have been initiated when Kilpatrick was thrown violently against something as the boat lurched while he was preparing a meal.

"He was holding something and took a corner of something right above his hip ... the stove or something," she said. "That was eight hours before [he started feeling ill]."

Apparently, the intestine became inflamed and swelled.

"The doctor said it was likely that that caused it," Tara said.

Kilpatrick said, "We'll probably never know. It could have been just a chunk of freeze-dried [food] that didn't hydrate well and got stuck in my intestines. [Or] I just figured I got a little food poisoning. The galley area is not super-clean."

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