Sitting down with Ian Walker

Published on July 18th, 2019

Shirley Robertson

British Double Olympic gold medallist and sailing broadcaster Shirley Robertson has launched her new monthly Sailing Podcast, and the second episode sees her interview British sailing royalty for a candid and revealing chat with Ian Walker.

Walker is a one-time Team GB team mate of Robertson’s, he won consecutive silver medals in Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000, and talks openly with Robertson about the two Olympic campaigns that were to herald the start of the golden era of British Olympic sailing.

“I do think back on it and think what would we have achieved if we’d have worked harder, or done it in a different way, if we were as fit as people now. We used to play nine holes of golf at six o’clock in the morning before going sailing in the afternoon, at the Olympic venue. I think you’d be kicked off the team if picked up a set of golf clubs while training in Japan right now!”

Ian Walker and Shirley Robertson go back a long way. Post his career as an Olympic athlete, Walker coached Robertson and her team to a gold medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics, the pair are fast friends, a fact that makes for an enlightening and insightful hour of interview.

This edition though is not just about sport. Walker touchingly discusses how the tragic death of dear friend and team mate John Merricks effected his approach to life, and ultimately led him to form an Olympic partnership with Mark Covell. Ian tells the poignant story of how the pair won a silver medal in Sydney shortly after the loss of Covell’s own team mate, Glyn Charles.

Ian Walker

“We were one point from a gold medal (in Sydney), we very nearly won it, we took a lot of risk in that regatta and most of it paid off. Maybe Jonny was helping us, maybe Glyn, maybe there was four of us in that boat. It was full of emotion.”

And then of course, there’s the Volvo Ocean Race. Ian Walker has skippered three campaigns around the planet in the grueling offshore adventure, ultimately winning the coveted trophy on Abu Dhabi Racing back in 2015. He candidly describes how his first campaign at the wheel of Green Dragon saw him accidentally become a Volvo skipper, on a race that he’ll never forget.

“That (2008/09) Edition of the Volvo is the one I have all the memories from, that was where we saw icebergs, that was my first trip to the Southern Ocean, I remember wiping out, breaking a boom in the Southern Ocean and sailing three thousand miles without a boom.

“The crazy winds of the Atlantic crossing into Galway and then twenty five thousand people in Galway town harbour at 3am to greet us in…..And that’s what the Volvo does, it creates these magical moments, people’s lives have been changed by the Volvo, or the Whitbread in days gone by, and will be by The Ocean Race in the future.”

Enjoy the complete podcast here:

Shirley Robertson’s Sailing Podcast is available to listen on her website or via most popular podcast outlets, including iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcast.

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