Walker's World Race Diary - 6 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

Each day we have all our provisions packed in a numbered bag and today we opened day 20. This seems to be the best way to keep track of time as the days and weeks begin to merge into one. It also keeps a focus on how much food and fuel we have left so that we can start to ration as appropriate.

We left China 20 days ago and have now passed Korea, Japan, The Marshall Islands, Fiji and New Zealand. Total distance covered (as the crow flies) so far is 5,700 miles, which means we have 6,600 to go to Rio.

We need to cover the second half much faster than the first if we are to not run out of food and fuel as we have only provisioned for 40 days in total.

It has been a bizarre week as the fleet has charged south to try and get into the westerly winds of the Southern Ocean.

As we drew level with New Zealand our progress was thwarted by an area of high pressure, which brings light winds, and we have had to turn east much earlier than planned. This means no Southern Ocean sleigh ride for now and the frustration of more upwind sailing which these boats are not designed for.

It is also frustrating, as a huge tactical opportunity to turn east earlier and cut the corner has been missed due to the ever changing weather. Having said that we have turned earlier than most of our competitors and are firmly in the leading pack, which bodes well.

Apart from the weather, which has gone from the freezing cold of China to the tropical and now back to cold again in the south, life onboard is never changing - there is a certain safety and discipline in routine. The two watches of four people each have been doing four hours on, four hours off, with two people on standby for every other off watch for 20 days.

Watch skipper Ian Walker celebrates his 39th birthday onboard Green Dragon

The navigator and I plan out strategy as and when we download weather files and position reports of the fleet and we help out on deck whenever we can. We are certainly needed for any sail changes and manoeuvres and I like to steer for a few hours a day.

Meals are three times a day with freeze dried porridge or muesli for breakfast and two hot freeze dried meals at lunch and dinner. We get one chocolate bar per day each and every other day there is a bag of sweets to share.

All our water is made by desalinating sea water. To say the food is getting monotonous is an understatement - how I would love some fresh fruit or vegetables right now.

The next week will be hard to navigate as we have to pick our way round a developing low pressure. We want to use its winds to power us east but we don't want so much wind and waves that we threaten the safety of the boat.

All this must be weighed up as we choose our route. We have to stay north of two ice gates put in by the organisers to keep us away from sighted icebergs and then we dive south to round the infamous Cape Horn. For me the next two weeks should hopefully fulfill a lifetime ambition to round the most famous sailing landmark of all.

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.

Sailing News by Stuart Alexander

Trouble and woe continues to dog Spain's Telefonica Blue in the Volvo round the world race this time in the form of a broken forestay when leading the fifth leg from Qingdao, China, to Rio de Janeiro.

Still with thousands of miles to the big turning point that is Cape Horn, the damage, the same as that which hit the Irish entry Green Dragon on leg two, will mean considerably reduced performance at times for a boat which has had rudder trouble on leg one and had to delay the start of the current leg after running aground in the pre-start manoeuvering.

The lead has been switching constantly and varying between less than a mile and over 300 miles, but the other four boats are all still in contention to win what is the longest leg in the race's history at 12,300 miles.

While being made to fight, the overall leader, Sweden's Eruicsson 4, skippered by Torben Grael, was in front when it mattered and grabbed maximum points at the first scoring gate.