Green Dragon Racing skipper Ian Walker's final countdown to his first Volvo Ocean Race starts here
There is no backing out now. With 24 hours to the start there is not even time to make any last minute changes. I have spent all morning doing press interviews and of course the skippers press conference. It’s a great honour to be lined up with all the other skippers and we uniquely share the responsibility of bringing all our teams home safely as well as carrying the hopes and expectations of sponsors and supporters alike. The main focus in my questions seemed to be on the fact that I haven’t done this race before and how I will deal with being a skipper in this situation. Everybody else seems more concerned than I am about this which is making me worry that there is something they know that I don’t. Throughout my life I seem to have been thrown into positions of responsibility so it is something I have got used to. I have been very careful to pick extremely experienced people who I will be relying on immensely. One thing I do know is that I am going to have a tough time crossing the equator. King Neptune does not normally have to ‘initiate’ skippers and with Andrew McLean, Guo Chuan, Freddy Shanks and I never having crossed the equator before we can expect a tough time. That is 10 days away and my focus right now is getting away from Alicante as fast as we can. That is no reflection on Alicante who have been great hosts, but it is more a desire to get on with what we know best. I will have to curb my naturally competitive inshore instincts to make sure that under no circumstances do we damage the boat during the start. I have witnessed Whitbread and Volvo starts before and I know how chaotic they can be.
Looking ahead the weather looks like great downwind sailing conditions for the first day followed by a ‘park up’ in no wind near Gibraltar. This will be a real test as the prize for being first out of the Straits could be a large one. Traditionally the first boat past the Canaries and into the Trade Winds can extend and build a good lead – at least as far as the doldrums. If you can make it through here then it can be relatively plain sailing to the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha. It is easy to type these words and they trip off the tongue but something deep inside me tells me that there is no such thing as ‘plain sailing’ in these boats or in this race.