Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper Ian Walker has opened up about what he considers to be the greatest challenge in the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race – taking on the perilous Southern Ocean to round Cape Horn.
Walker said he and his crew on board Azzam would be sure to have their wits about them during Leg 4 when the fleet could again face ice, extreme waves and hurricane force winds when racing from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajaí, South America.
“It is a very feared and desolate part of the world,’’ he said. “If you get a storm when you’re in the vicinity of Cape Horn you need your wits about you to survive. That’s obviously a very notorious part of the world and we’ll be down there for about two and a half weeks.
“When we’re in that part of the world and it’s night time, you’ve got ice in the water and you’re doing 30 miles per hour blind, it’s a worry.”
Despite the fear-factor Walker said there were moments in the world’s toughest and longest professional sailing race when he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
As skipper, he said it was his job to level off the peaks and troughs of emotion the crew will endure to help ensure they can continue to perform in the testing endurance race.
“A third of the time you’re terrified because it’s so wet and windy and wild, and you’d rather be anywhere else in the world,’’ he said. “It’s a very tough environment, particularly down below trying to live and exist in a carbon fibre shell that’s being tossed around the ocean. It’s anything but luxury.
“A third of the time is actually quite mundane with easy conditions and the other third is some of the best sailing and best racing of your life where you are neck and neck with another boat, or enjoying beautiful trade wind sailing under a starry sky, and there’s no place else you’d rather be.”