Ian Walker on the Volvo Ocean Race

Photos: Matt Knighton / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's skipper on what's making the difference
Three legs down into Ian Walker’s third Volvo Ocean Race and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is lying in a comfortable second place, one point behind overall leader Dongfeng Race Team. “We are in rude health,” says Walker. “I am pretty happy with the results so far. We have made some steps up in how we’re sailing the boat. Everyone is fit and healthy, we are crossing off the miles, avoiding disasters and racking up some good results. It couldn’t be better really.” The latest Volvo Ocean Race is of course being sailed in the one design VO65s and this is placing even greater emphasis on meticulous crew work - how the boat is trimmed and steered, how the keel canted and the amount of daggerboard to be used, the configuration of the water ballast and stacking, plus of course the all-important crossover chart determining sail changes - and all of this for every wind angle and wind speed. This represents a never-ending learning curve. “The boats seem pretty twitchy,” says Walker. “It is remarkable how big the speed differences are between the boats at times. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that ‘the team that learns the most is probably going to be the one that prevails at the end of the race’, because we are all starting from a fairly low base.” Traditionally two boat testing has been the best way to determine out to get 100% out of a boat, but, in the name of cost-saving, this was prohibited prior to the start of this Volvo Ocean Race. Walker cites this as one of the less obvious reasons boats have been sticking together during the race so far. “I think Brunel and Dongfeng did a good job of sailing with each other on leg two, because that