Ian Walker: No More Room for Excuses

Published on June 15th, 2014

(June 15, 2014) – Double Olympic medalist Ian Walker (GBR) has twice skippered the Volvo Ocean Race with boats that did not have “podium performance”, which makes going around the world a long race. But now with the 2014-15 race using one design boats, putting all teams on a level playing field, the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper is well aware that there is now no room for “excuses”.

“Sure, this is my best chance to win the race. In the previous races, the gap between the top team and the rest of pack was a lot. It was like Formula One. Now everyone will be having yachts with the same specifications and I’m hoping that we will have an edge,” Walker told Gulf News.

Walker has beefed up his squad with a blend of youth and experience this season. His yacht Azzam will have four new sailors.

“After the end of last year’s race, we did a full appraisal about various things. We wanted to know where we did better, where we could improve and change,” said Walker, a two-time Olympic silver medallist in the Star and 470 class. “We wanted to keep some consistency and didn’t want to tear the team apart as we had worked hard to build a team,” added Walker, whose eight-member team includes Simon Fisher, Justin Slattery, Chuny Bermudez, Phil Harmer, Andrew McLean, Luke Parkinson and Emirati Adil Khalid.

Walker was also of the view that it was a tough task for him to select new hands on deck for the season as lots of sailors were willing to be a part of a team like Abu Dhabi.

“The people who have joined are the ones who have sailed before or [were] recommended to me. One of our young lads is 23-year-old Parkinson from Australia and I got to know him during the Sydney Hobart Race. There are hundreds of people who want to sail in this race but the team is so small and obviously, you have to say no to so many people,” said Walker, who was also all praise for homebred talent Khalid.

“Khalid has improved in leaps and bounds. To someone who had never sailed offshore to somebody who can steer the boat… trim the sails and now responsible for deck gear on board. He has put on a lot of muscle and he needs to keep pushing as a senior team member and get more Emiratis involved.”

Walker and his crew’s preparedness will be tested in August during the 2000-mile Round Britain and Ireland race.

“All the teams will be sailing there and that will be a big test for us. It will give us the much-needed experience ahead of the Volvo Ocean Race. At present, our yacht is in Portugal and this is a maintenance week. We will sail across the Atlantic in a week’s time,” said Walker, whose team finished fifth in the last Volvo Ocean Race.

Abu Dhabi Ocean RacingVolvo Ocean Race

Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race starts October 4 and will take the fleet to 11 cities in 11 countries – Spain, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, China, New Zealand, Brazil, United States, Portugal, France, The Netherlands, and Sweden – and will require the teams to cover 38,739 nautical miles. It will be the first edition using the new one design Volvo Ocean 65 racing boats.

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