CHICAGO — As they gather in Chicago, crews from nine F-50 catamarans will show off their speed in the water off Navy Pier — with one unlikely participant.

Paul Campbell-James is a wing trimmer with Team USA.

This experienced sailor recalled a day during practice prior to the Denmark Grand Prix when he was injured.

“We were coming into the bottom mark doing 95 km/h, so super fast, and we basically did a turn at the bottom mark (and) something went slightly wrong,” he said. “And the boat healed over extremely quickly and in my role, I’m basically controlling everything, so I haven’t really got a hand to hold on.”

As the two-ton rig nearly tipped, Paul Campbell-James tumbled while trying to right the vessel. His leg could not take the weight.

“I finished the race and the boys were like, ‘Are you OK?’ And I said, ‘Not really, no. I should probably get the medic right over,’” he said. ”The doctor in the medical rib looked at me for three seconds, touched my legs for about two seconds and said, ‘Yeah you’ve broken your fibula.’”

X-rays showed the break straight through the fibula in his right leg bone. Doctors operated immediately, but healing would take precious time. Campbell-James didn’t have the luxury of standard rehab time as the race was just three weeks away and he was bound to compete with his team.


“He said, ‘We can operate on Monday … first thing. the only problem is I can’t get an anesthesiologist so I’m just going to have to locally numb it while I open up your leg, drill a lot of holes in the bone and put a plate on top,’” Campbell-James said. “’But the good thing about it is it will get better quicker and you will recover quicker if you don’t go under anesthesia.’  So I said, ‘Fine. Yeah, let’s do it.’”

Campbell-James’s drive and athleticism put him at the helm of his recovery.

“Being an active person, having that goal of 18 days to get better was really good kind of mentally for me,” he said.

Miraculously by Day 3 he was up, but barely able to put weight on his leg. Two days later, he had a smoother gait. And by one week post-surgery, the cast was off. With a cane in hand, he was on his way.
And by Day 10 and you would barely know he had an accident.

He biked and ran with his eye on sailing through recovery.

“What’s fantastic (is) not only is this is what we love, but this is a profession and a job, so the pressure was on to get back into it. To pay the bills and earn the money, but to be able to sail these boats with these people and against these people. It’s the best job in the world. It’s wicked fun,” Campbell-James said.

The Sail GP event with speeds of up to 60 miles per hour is this weekend you can see the schedule here.