Team Blog - Ian Walker - 9th November 2011

Wednesday, 09 November 2011 | by ADOR

The last few days have been tough on everyone in and associated with our team. I must thank our supporters for all the messages of goodwill the team and I have received. I also can’t thank the shore team and the team from Future Masts enough for their efforts to get us back out here racing.

It has been a huge effort and we are only back out here so quickly because of this work and the logistical planning behind it.

I wish I could say we were now racing with clear minds but we are not – it is not normal practice to step a new mast and set off in the dark and straight offshore – new masts can sometimes take days to tune up but we don’t have that time. We also don’t have the safety of a spare mast waiting for us if anything goes wrong.

The stakes are now very high and we must sail accordingly. Right now we are taking it one step at a time – we will not sail fully loaded tonight until we can check everything in daylight.

Just like falling off a horse it takes time to regain your confidence but you simply have to get back on it as soon as you can. We are also still awaiting the final analysis of what may have caused the mast failure. If we have any concerns we could still be forced to stop again.

For now, however, I am going to enjoy sailing with a full moon and clear skies and we will start to find Azzam’s rhythm again. As somebody wrote on facebook – Azzam may have lost a feather but she will soon grow it back and soar again.

date: Wednesday, 09 November 2011 10:08:51 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - Nick Dana - 6th November 2011

Sunday, 06 November 2011 | by ADOR

The boat's mainsail and J4 were retrieved successfully along with various other parts that we will hope to re-use.

We put a man in the water (Wade Morgan) to cut away the top of the mainsail at the headboard car. Wade was able to make several attempts at cutting. However, a very violent sea state made it extremely dangerous for him to remain in the water.

The crew retrieved him promptly and were able to get the mainsail off the lock - allowing it to slide down the rig and be pulled from the water.

The mast from the first spreader up is now secured to the port side of the boat. About three or four metres protrude from behind the boat. A spider web of lines is keeping the operation intact. The crew are deeply disappointed.

date: Sunday, 06 November 2011 09:30:13 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - Ian Walker - 5th November 2011

Saturday, 05 November 2011 | by ADOR

Wow – what a start. That has to be the most chaotic 40 minutes of sailing I have ever been involved with. Six teams with only 10 sailors trying to throw their 70 foot boats around a tiny course in 25 knots of wind.

I am not sure what our guest Zinedine Zidane made of it but he looked happy to get off!

We are already approaching Cabo de Palos only two and a half hours into the race. We have been struggling a bit at high speed reaching as we expected against the three Juan K boats but at least we have just overtaken Camper. I don’t foresee much rest tonight as we push on upwind towards Gibraltar. We are getting settled and will eat early while the waves are not too big.

date: Saturday, 05 November 2011 19:34:18 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - Ian Walker - 3rd November 2011

Thursday, 03 November 2011 | by ADOR

It seems unbelievable that the start of the Volvo Ocean race is now upon us. In two days time we will be setting off on the 6,500 mile trip from Alicante to Cape Town.

Azzam is loaded. My bag is packed and we are all ready to go. The team has been buzzing this week after a fantastic win in the first in-port race. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has already made its mark on this race and hopefully we have a lot more to offer. It feels great to be at the top of the leader board – long may it last!

Some people are now saying that we are the favourites for the race but let’s not get carried away. One light air race win does not mean that we have the boat and sails to win offshore.

What it does show is that we have a really good team and that we are well prepared. There are five other teams in the same position. Leg 1 is a one of my favourite legs with lots of downwind sailing and tactical decisions. We have been studying the weather closely and working on our outline strategy.

It is going to be very tight as to whether we can exit the Mediterranean and link into the trade winds before they shut down or not. The weather here is rain and no wind today with a large Atlantic storm approaching so it’s a good job we are not starting today.

We still plan to sail this afternoon for a final system and sail check. After that my family arrive so it will be time for a bit of relaxation tomorrow and my last good night’s sleep for three weeks.

date: Thursday, 03 November 2011 14:24:33 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - Ian Walker - 23 October 2011

Sunday, 23 October 2011 | by ADOR

What a crazy week it has been so far! After a couple of lovely days off at home with my family it has been one of the busiest weeks of the program.

We have been practicing our inshore sailing every day, plus we have had to complete our last 110 mile qualification passage which we did Monday night.

Our chief sail designer JB has been here from the US to look at our final sail designs for the race as has Chris Bedford our weather expert.

Whenever we haven’t been sailing it has been briefings, debriefs, weather lessons or sail discussions. What with an increasing amount of media to deal with too, it is just 24/7.

Fortunately things should calm down now for the next week. Azzam is out of the water for the underside of the hull to have its final ‘tickle up’ (sanding and polishing) as well as a re-spray of the foredeck to improve the non-slip and make it safer for the crew to work up there. The mast is on the ground for its final checks. Whilst the whole project has felt like a race against time for the last year, the reality is the race for real starts in one week’s time.

date: Sunday, 23 October 2011 11:32:44 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - Ian Walker - 8th October 2011

Saturday, 08 October 2011 | by ADOR

As we sit just a few hundred metres to leeward of Groupama, you can imagine the intensity as the sun rises and the wind continues to shift.

However, the chat on board is still hovering around the rugby. Wales and Ireland are playing this morning, and there are a few friendly discussions going on amongst the boys. One of whom, is Irish. Every ten minutes Jules or I is asked to check our computer – not for the latest weather updates, but for the latest scores.

Rugby aside, Azzam and the crew on board are going well. It has been very shifty this morning so far, and a bit frustrating at times to be honest. Early last night we were hoping for a strong right shift that was forecasted to come through, but never ended up materialisng. So we have been pushing hard to regain traction on the lead boats.

And there it is; the email from Race HQ with the Rugby scores. Wales is beating Ireland. I’m told it’s my duty to wake Justin Slattery up from his second hour of sleep in 24 hours and tell him to come on deck so he can heckled!

date: Saturday, 08 October 2011 09:03:46 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - Ian Walker - 4th October 2011

Tuesday, 04 October 2011 | by ADOR

After a fairly windy and bumpy slog upwind to Alicante the team are settling in to their new home well. We encountered 35 knot headwinds in the Straits of Gibraltar and I was relieved the boat came through unscathed.

This was a final offshore test before the practice race or ‘leg zero’ as it is called which starts this Friday. Arriving in Alicante was very exciting as we got to see all our competitors’ boats for the first time. It is amazing how different the three new hull shapes from the three different design offices are. I am desperate to see how we perform and what everyone’s sails will look like.

In the next week all will be revealed. Our shore team broke down our base in Cascais in record time and sent it on its way to Cape Town. Meanwhile an advanced party started setting everything up in Alicante. It is incredible to think that in five days we have built the shore base, taken the mast down, replaced the standing rigging, broken down the keel to add some more weight and depth to the bulb, put it all back together and successfully passed some key measurement tests before re-stepping the rig.

At the same time a host of other jobs are being completed onboard so that we are well and truly ready to race. Leg zero starts in three days and will consist of a 360 mile trip to Palma, Majorca and back. The result is not important in the long run but the performance is. All eyes will be on us for sure and there is a lot at stake.

date: Tuesday, 04 October 2011 11:07:56 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - Ian Walker - 25th September 2011

Sunday, 25 September 2011 | by ADOR

One thing you have to get good at in the Volvo Ocean Race is packing your bags and upping sticks to move somewhere else. No sooner do you get comfortable in a venue then it is time to pack everything away and move on.

Since June we have run the operation from Italy, the UK and Cascais, Portugal. Now it is time to relocate to the starting host port of Alicante. The shore team are getting used to what needs to be done and the logistics team are tested to the full – travel, accommodation, shipping all needs to work like clockwork.

So we are saying good bye to Cascais Marina – what a fantastic place this has been to train. A nice town, good facilities and superb sailing conditions. Thanks to the staff and local people for their help and support.

It will feel like coming to our second home when we return to Lisbon after leg 7. But on we must go – one day earlier than planned to avoid the worst of some bad weather in the Straits of Gibraltar. This three day trip will be our last real offshore training before the start. After that our focus will be on final detailing of Azzam, measurement and some inshore training.

We have ended this training session with two days of ‘inshore training’ and I can honestly say it is going to be a real struggle getting these boats round a short course with only 10 crew onboard. The spectators will be in for a few thrills and spills if it’s windy.

date: Sunday, 25 September 2011 11:06:12 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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