Walker's World Race Diary - 11 June

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

We have just arrived in Marstrand, Sweden, at the end of one of the most amazing races I have ever sailed.

It took four and a half days to get here from Galway and in that time I think I slept about 10 hours in total. The weather was extremely complex and that, coupled with the tight confines of racing through the English Channel and North Sea, led to lots of manoeuvres and tactical decisions.

We had hard, downwind running conditions to the Fastnet Rock, where we led the fleet south to England. The Channel was lighter, with fierce spring tides off Alderney, before we were hit hard again by strong winds and steep waves in the North Sea.

This leg had everything and, to round it all off, the top three boats finished within eight minutes of each other. We were a mere 50 seconds behind Puma in second place after 1,250 miles, but how could we be disappointed when we achieved our goal of again being on the podium.

This is a great result for our team, which continues to make its mark on this race. Ericsson 4 must now have pretty much won the race overall after another dominant display, but even they were languishing in last place at times. As recently as yesterday, when we were beating up the Danish, coast we were leading this leg overall but we couldn't hang on.

In the end we were overpowered by the speed of ERT4 and Puma, but that is not new. What is important is that we continue to put up a good fight and that we stay strong as a team and continue to improve.

Our teamwork is very good and one time in this leg highlighted it to me more than any other. As we rounded the Blasket Islands off Ireland's south-west corner, we had to gybe to approach the Fastnet Rock. It was blowing 35 knots and we had our biggest masthead spinnaker up. We were side by side with Ericsson 4 and Puma.

The time came and we picked a wave, surfed and managed to gybe safely. Phew, we had done it and were off in the right direction. Behind us Puma decided to take their spinnaker down and made a mess of it such that they ended up having to drop their mainsail to clear a halyard. Ericsson 4 tried to gybe but wiped out breaking their steering wheel and causing serious damage to their hull /deck joint in the process. They were lying on their side taking on water while we stretched away.

This is only one small battle and Ericsson 4 are, of course, winning the war, but it's the odd moment like this that remains with you long after the race. We have three days here in the Marstrand pit stop before leaving for Stockholm. We now have less than 1,000 miles to go before the end in St Petersburg. The race has been a fantastic adventure and I already have the feeling that nobody wants it to end.

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 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.

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