Walker's World Race Diary - 18 December

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The Independent Online

I was a big supporter of Volvo's brave decision to take this race to the new economic tigers of Asia.

I still felt it retained enough heavy air downwind sailing, as has been proven by the drama of legs one and two, and I felt it was necessary to broaden the race's media and economic reach.

Having spent the last six days either on the wind, looking for wind or pushing strong adverse currents, sometimes all three, I am beginning to question the merits. These boats are not built for going upwind with too much power and such a wide flat hull section that refuses to cut through waves when it possibly slams into them.

Stuart Alexander talks to Ian Walker Online

Right now we are sailing in 20 knots and, with an awkward headsea, every wave is met with a crash and a shudder of the carbon hull shell that make you think your fillings are going to drop out your teeth. At first sleeping is impossible but, after a while, fatigue settles in and you will sleep absolutely anywhere - it is quite amazing what the body will tolerate.

There are two races going on out here in the Indian Ocean. The first is for those all-important points on the leaderboard against the other boats and the second is against the clock to try and make it to Singapore by Christmas.

Race one has been fascinating, with lots of lead changes and many difficult tactical decisions. We have sailed very well, but it is hard to come out on top when, in certain conditions, your speed does not match some of the other boats. Our crew will keep fighting but we are currently in our worst position of the leg, sixth, with only 400 miles to the scoring gate.

We have now tacked in near the port tack layline to the top of Indonesia and the scoring gate off Pulau We. There don't seem to be many tactical options left until we get into the Malacca Straits when I hope the front of the race may restart at some stage.

We made a particularly good move inshore on the first night and also a strong move south off the tip of Sri Lanka to evade the current. Both bought us many miles but, unfortunately, our last two tacks to try and evade a huge cloud cell cost us dearly. We are trying to keep as close as possible to the leaders to be able to capitalise on any mistakes and in this we have been very successful.

As far as race two goes, we have so far taken five days to sail less than 1000 miles - a distance we would knock off in two days in the Southern Ocean. At this rate we would arrive in another six days, which is Christmas Eve. It all depends on the notoriously fickle winds in the Straits, but those with flights home for Christmas booked on Christmas Eve will be chewing their finger nails right to the finish I suspect.

I have certainly never looked forward to Christmas so much since I was a kid, as it brings with it the likelihood of a comfy bed, a shower (yes the salt water sores are spreading in the raging heat and humidity) and a proper meal (my battle with the freeze dried food goes on).