It has been a brutal few days for us on the Green Dragon. We have gone from fighting for the lead to over 200 miles behind.
Ericsson 4 has simply blown away the field in perfect record breaking conditions. We ourselves had some excellent 24 hour runs but were hampered by numerous sail changes and the inability to push the boat hard at night. In the day we have been on the edge in 30+ knot winds and steep building seas, so at night we have little choice but to throttle back by reducing some sail.
We have had some spectacular nosedives and several casualties including myself being flattened against the wheel by 3 others who were re-arranging a sail on the stack behind me - bad timing. In our last nose dive we sent the bowsprit so far under that the tack of the spinnaker washed back, took out the pulpit and ripped the sail to shreds. 8 hours and many miles later and the sail has been glued and sewn back together by Phil Harmer and it is now up and flying again - right on the edge.
Any sensible person in a normal boat would not push this hard but we have no choice or we will get overrun by our competitors. Much of our loss has been down to two things. Firstly we dropped off the front of the depression earlier than those around us due to our most Southerly position - this despite fighting to get North for the previous 36 hours. Secondly we had a massive crash into an unkown object at 1.30 last night, I was in my bunk awake when I heard and felt the impact. The boat went from 25 knots to nearly stationary causing all those on deck to fall to the deck.
Neal was steering and broke the steering wheel as he fell forward. A rapid donning of survival suits and lifejackets followed and checking of the boat ensued. I was ready to make the Mayday call. Taking it easy til daylight we lost many miles and the boat now suffers from a huge vibration and speed loss. It appears the main fin hit something - maybe a tree or sea animal - something big enough to stop a 14 tonne boat in its tracks. We are confident again in the structural integrity of the boat so on we push - albeit 10 per cent slower because of the damaged keel.
Our game plan now is to chase the depression as it heads South and this will see us go below 40 degrees South, before cutting up to Cape Town.
The first three will be clear ahead unless they run out of wind. Our focus is to try to save 4th which with our handicapped boat will be a real battle. We have about 1600 miles to sail and about an 80 mile lead over Telefonica Blue. We will not give it up easily.
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 weekly 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.Reuse content