In the Volvo Ocean Race, despite having come in fifth in overall standings, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s skipper, Ian Walker, says that his team could easily be on the brink of success. Having been eliminated from the first leg after breaking their mast on the first night, Abu Dhabi finished fifth on both stages of Leg 2.
But Walker’s crew have been harking back to the early days of their campaign which saw them win their first outing in the Rolex Fastnet Race, setting a new monohull course record just weeks after launching their Volvo Open 70, Azzam. 'To really start with a bang was great and now it is easier to get through our current difficult patch when you have tasted success and know more success could be just around the corner,' Walker said.
Walker says he still has no real handle on the Abu Dhabi team’s speed relative to the rest of the fleet. 'We have never had the chance to sail next to the other boats for very long,' he said. 'We were forced out of Leg 1 and on Leg 2 we hardly saw anyone else on the first stage.'
Walker says the second stage of Leg 2 into Abu Dhabi was the first time they had lined up in close proximity to the other boats, something that has given an advantage to the three teams who have completed both legs. 'We clearly were not fast on a reach like that,' he said.
'However the differences can be very subtle on these boats and another few degrees different wind angle and we could have been the fastest boat out there.'The longer you have sailed against each other in close proximity the more you learn about how to mode, trim and sail your boat fast, and the better you are going to get at all that.'
Frustrating though Abu Dhabi’s position in the standings might be for the highly competitive Abu Dhabi crew, Walker says the atmosphere in the squad remains extremely professional. 'I can’t speak for the rest of the crew but for sure I was frustrated at times on Leg 2 and I am sure other people were too. But I don’t think you can let your emotions come to the fore.
'This race is too hard, too tough, with all of the time you spend on deck and what you put yourself through physically and mentally to let all that stuff come to the surface.'
'You have to bury that, you have to be more like a machine.' Walker says his team have not lost the belief that they can still win the Volvo Ocean Race and have no plans for knee jerk reactions to their current situation.'
'We just have to get back into the race and learn more about the other boats and what we are doing.'
'It’s a long way around the world and we have to stick to the basics, stay near the other guys and learn as much as we can, sail as smart as we can and push the boat as hard as we can.'
'We feel like the race has just started,' he said. 'We have only done one leg and I think it is too early to start panicking or changing the way we do things.'
'I think it will take another couple of legs of not seeing what we want to see before we have to think about panicking.'
Volvo Ocean Race website