Walker's World Race Diary - 26 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

The end is nigh.

We now have a little over 600 miles to go in leg five, or. in sailor speak about a Fastnet worth. Soon this marathon leg, which at 12,300 miles is longer than the distance from UK to New Zealand by sea, will be over. We have been at sea 39 days and we should make Rio in another three.

Think back to Valentine's Day seven weeks ago and think of everything that has happened since. That is when we left Qingdao.

Up until 36 hours ago we were stuck in no wind with little hope of making it to Rio inside a week. Yesterday morning we started moving again and soon the miles to go figure starting rolling down.

This is great news for the crew as we only brought food for 40 days and have been rationing for a week already. Sailing Volvo 70s is very hard work and doing it with little food is even harder.

Mentally and physically this leg has been very tough and there is no way we will recover in the two weeks we have before the restart. That is all we have to prepare for the next leg to Boston and it is made harder by the fact we have an in-port race to do next Saturday.

For us it has been a good leg. First and formost we have had no major gear failure or problems with the boat or sails - this is crucial as any detour for repairs may have seen us miss the next leg.

Secondly we have made a good race of it with the top boats, despite having fallen over 200 miles behind in the first week. We have stuck to our task and repeatedly pulled back the miles and only in the last week when we became ensnared by a huge high pressure area with no wind did we lose touch.

A bonus has been the fact that we passed Telefonica Blue after New Zealand and, as they have fought technical problems, they have been unable to pass us yet.

I say yet as the approach to Rio is notoriously difficult and anything could still happen - the race isn't over until you are tied to the dock!

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

As a skipper it has been a tough leg to manage the crew for such a long time. You cannot push everybody 100% for this length of time, especially in the Southern Ocean, when you are over 2,000 miles from the nearest help. We were cautious at times, particularly as we approached the notorious Cape Horn, and I am pleased that we were.

At times we have pushed really hard to make a weather window, where gains and losses are compounded. For now it is a question of keeping moving towards Rio, try to forget thinking about food, and be very grateful that we will have completed an epic journey - the longest ever in the history of this race.

We hope to retain our fourth place for our efforts, which, together with our scoring gate points, will see us build a big gap on those behind overall.

Ask anybody who knows me and they will tell you how competitive I am and that I like to win at whatever I do. I rarely derive satisfaction just from taking part. But, when I look back on leg five of this race, it will be with a lot of pride and satisfaction.

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.