Walker's World Race Diary - 26 February

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

In the space of one week, life onboard the Green Dragon has gone from being cold and incredibly wet when we were blast reaching from China, past Korea and Japan, to unbearably hot and sticky as we have crossed the Equator and now head south-east towards Fiji.

The lighter winds offer a reprieve from the incessant noise and vigorous motion of a Volvo 70 at high speed and it is a chance to check the boat over and let bodies recover. After 10 days in damp clothes and wearing waterproof gear the body needs a rainwater wash and some air to clear up the salt water rashes and infections that develop.

For now, it is a pleasure to be on deck in shorts and tee-shirt alone and it is nice to be able to eat a meal without having to hold on for grim death.

The freeze dried meals have been good so far but they are starting to get monotonous and after two weeks the thought of another four weeks of the same food is less than appealing.

We should now have about another week to 10 days of light winds before the onslaught of the Southern Ocean. The opportunity to sail these ridiculously fast boats in the Southern Ocean is what many of these sailors are here for.

I am intrigued by the prospect, but, after the days spent so far in the South Atlantic and south from Cape Town, I, for one, will be glad to be heading north again after Cape Horn.

There is much at stake and, as a skipper, the responsibility for the boat and those onboard weighs heavily on me.

This leg is going well for us so far after a poor first week. A lack of speed in high powered reaching led to us falling 250 miles behind at one stage but, after protecting an easterly position on the fleet, we are now back in the hunt within 50 miles off the leaders.

For now we are squeezing all the speed we can out of the boat in testing trade wind conditions. Typically this means glorious wind and sun by day, but violent rain squalls and huge shifts in wind direction and powerful gusts in the evening and night.

These demand constant adjustment to the trim of the sails and often sail changes to be made and it is all the harder as you can't see what is coming at you in the dark.

Just now one such squall culminated in a fantastic lightning show that we were glad to see the back of. Nobody likes to see too much lightning nearby when sitting in an all carbon boat with a 100-foot carbon mast and nothing else for miles and miles!

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.