Walker’s World Race Diary - 28 November

Green Dragon skipper Ian Walker analyses the latest developments in the Volvo round the world race in his exclusive weekly diary
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The Independent Online

Sailing can be a funny sport. For five days after leaving Cape Town we fought gale force winds in the Southern Ocean in our battle to score a third at the scoring gate [at longitude 58 East] despite various wipeouts and a broken boom.

We have then had long periods of trade wind sailing where very little changes, but you try to eke out every last fraction of boat speed to maintain your place in the rankings. Every three hours we receive a position report by e-mail and even a one-mile loss is like a serious body blow.

Next we had to deal with the madness that is the doldrums, where the key skills are to dodge the huge rain clouds that cook up and then dissipate as fast as you can react with the boat. Ten or 20 miles can be won or lost in three hours if you find yourself the right or wrong side of one of these, but, again, we did well and emerged on the north side in third place, very close to second.

After all this we were hoping to rattle off the last 850 miles to Cochin in India and secure our second podium position or even better, but now we find ourselves becalmed near the equator in the middle of the Indian Ocean. We will be lucky to have covered three miles in our last three hours as we fight to keep the speedo above zero.

We can see the lights of other boats emerging behind us as all our hard fought miles are lost. Onboard everyone is calm, as we all know this can happen in sailing, but, as we remind ourselves 'what the Lord giveth he can easily take away' (I am not particularly religious but some things are beyond our control and this seems to demonstrate that).

Once the speedo drops below a few knots it is very hard to manoeuvre into a better position. So now we are waiting for the wind to come back and hoping that it comes to us first as we lost it first.

Onboard life is fairly comfortable after the rigours of the first week and our lightweight electric fans are worth their weight in gold - without them down below would be unbearable.

We have decided not to try and fix our broken mainsail boom as we have found successful ways of controlling the mainsail without it. We are not at 100 per cent, particularly in changeable conditions, but we can race.

So there are 700 miles to Cochin and, at our current speed, that would take 700 hours - what a thought! The weather looks very tricky indeed and my view is that any boat could still finish first or last in this leg.

Ericsson 4 has a massive lead and seems totally to have bypassed both this hole and the Doldrums, but I suspect even they should not rest on their laurels. Give us back the wind and the Green Dragon will start charging again.

Click below to listen to Stuart Alexander talk to Ian Walker

Ian Walker has won two silver medals at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympic Games and was skipper of the Team GBR challenge for the America’s Cup in Auckland in 2003. Now he is skipper of the Galway-based, Chinese-partnered Green Dragon team in the Volvo Ocean Race and is writing an exclusive weekly commentary for The Independent plus talking to Stuart Alexander by satellite link from the boat during the 10 legs and 37,000 miles that take the fleet from Spain around the world to St. Petersburg.