Ian Walker's Olympic Diary - 4th September

In the run-up to the Olympics, British Star sailor and 1996 470 Silver Medallist, Ian Walker, writes from Sydney
It’s great to be back on the water again, but the conditions remain poor for sail testing. We had a gentle shake down sail on Friday to test Mark’s arm and it's fine. The burn has heeled remarkably quickly and it's no longer a worry. On Saturday we had gale force winds from the south-west behind a westerly change, and we were the only Star to go out. Star boats are notoriously hard to sail in very strong winds because of their huge sail area and delicate mast. One slip on the runners, a mistake in how you have the mast set up, or even just a roll in to windward on a run - all can lead to a dismasting. But we are only too aware that we have had little practice in these conditions, after a winter of fair winds in the USA. We are also aware that the Olympics could be raced in any conditions and we must be ready. So, not wanting to risk our best masts, we put on an old mast and went out to throw the boat around. What a great sail! We must have done about ten reach-to-reach gybes to warm up, and then beat back up the harbour to do a long run all the way down practicing run-to-run gybes - which are a lot harder. We did this several times and were really pleased to get to grips with it. We now have a system for what to do in every circumstance, and after executing some gybes in about 30 knots we decided we would quit while things were going well. Mark really is a great crew and on days like this I realise just how good he is. He needs every bit of his 6 ft 7 inch, 19 stone frame to