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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Team Blog - Ian Walker - 19th September 2011

Monday, 19 September 2011 | by ADOR

Amazingly we only have one week to go before we pack up to leave our training base in Cascais.

As I literally type, Azzam is being craned out of the water for some final measurement checks. We have just weighed in on the official Volvo loadcell and all is well. Over the weekend we returned from a few days offshore. It was another excellent trip during which time we conducted over 100 ‘speed tests’ – these are 10 minute tests of boatspeed sailing at different angles whilst testing different variables. All of this information will greatly help our ability to set the boat up well and optimise our routing solutions.

I am pleased to say that the job-list didn’t get any longer despite some quite lively conditions. Our new sails have started arriving and so we have begun the long process of applying all the branding. It will take six people two weeks to fully paint and brand our race sails. The sails may look big onboard when hoisted but they look even bigger when you are stood there with a stencil and a paintbrush!

date: Monday, 19 September 2011 11:04:24 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - Ian Walker - 14th September 2011

Wednesday, 14 September 2011 | by ADOR

Today we have a work day ashore so I can pause for breath and catch up in the office. In the last week I have sailed three days in Cascais and spent four days in Abu Dhabi working with the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA).

I was lucky enough to be able to present His Highness Sheikh Sultan, Chairman of the ADTA, with the Fastnet Race prize and the winning battle flag signed by the team. I also toured the stopover village venue and was really impressed by the work that has gone on and the plans in place for New Year in Abu Dhabi. I can’t wait!

Back in Cascais the program rolled on with Rob, Craig and Jules running the testing sessions. Slowly but surely we are building up our performance database and answering some of the outstanding questions we had on sail shapes and sizes. It is a lengthy process but with Si Fi collating all the data into a daily performance review we can all sit down and make sense of the numbers at the end of the day.

A good debrief is crucial to getting all the lessons or ideas discussed and written down. A typical training day is to meet at the base at 9am after the morning gym session. We briefly run through the plan for the day and get off the dock by 10am.

The Cascais winds have been very reliable so we are quickly into testing certain angles and sail configurations. We focus on the wind speeds and angles that we think we will see most in the race and where we have outstanding crossover or design queries.

In order to sail downwind for 90 minutes in strong wind we may need 40 miles of runway which would mean a four hour upwind slog to ‘make room’. Reaching is of course easier as you just blast out and back.

Every day there are normally other things to test like a manoeuvre, a new system or some new rigging. Yesterday we hit 35 knots boatspeed and I think we will hit 40 before too long.

We try to be back at the dock by 5pm to give the shore crew time to work on the boat when we get in. Tomorrow we head off on a three day offshore practice which enables the shore crew to have a day off and gives us the ability to sail much longer speed tests.

We only have a handful of testing days left before we head to Alicante for the start, so every hour counts. It is exciting to see how much we are learning about the boat and how much we are improving as a team. It is also great to have had Bruce Farr here sailing with us this week imparting his wisdom to the team.

Thanks for following ‘Azzam’.

date: Wednesday, 14 September 2011 11:02:40 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing / Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority is not responsible for third party comments on the website.