Walker's World Race Diary - 19 March

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

Back into the Atlantic.

Believe it or not, it is day 33 and we have sailed over 10,000 miles from Qinqdao in China. More importantly, in the last 12 hours we have safely rounded the notorious Cape Horn, a feat which means so much to any offshore sailor.

Amazingly for an Irish entry, we rounded the Horn on St Patrick's Day! It was not an easy passage with 30 - 40 knot westerly gales and a pretty bad sea state on the continental shelf that bounds the Horn.

We took a cautious approach given the conditions and stood 30 miles offshore to avoid the worst of the waves. Sadly this meant we didn't see the Cape, but it was the middle of a pitch black night so I'm not sure we would have seen much even five miles off.

By first light we had sailed the 100 miles to the Straits of Le Maire, a 16-mile wide channel between the mainland Chile and Staten Island (Argentina). We were blessed with flat water and a fair tide (4 knots of it) to usher us into the Atlantic and we were able to celebrate our rounding of the Cape.

We toasted our rounding with a bottle of Norwegian Linie Aquavit given to us by one of our sponsors and friends for this purpose and a Cuban cigar. I took time to reflect on all those who had lost their lives trying to round the Cape in years gone by. As a skipper you do feel the responsibility for all those onboard and I am a very happy man to have crossed the 4,500 miles of open Pacific Ocean and once again be within a days sailing of land.

Stuart Alexander, The Independent's sailing correspondent, talks to Ian Walker via satellite phone.

The last week has also been good to us in the race as we have narrowed the distance from the leaders and closed to within 70 miles of third-placed Puma.

We continue to push hard and hope that the weather gives us an opportunity to make a move and be on the top three podium in Rio.

The last few days were particularly miserable onboard as everything is wet and cold. The boat is wringing wet inside from condensation and most people's clothing is wet through.

Getting up every four hours and putting on damp clothes to stand a four-hour watch in temperatures just above freezing is not everyone's idea of fun. Right now morale is high as we finally head north into warmer weather.

We have 2,050 miles to go to Rio and, all being well, this should take just over a week.

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.