Volvo Ocean Race: Around the world in nine stages


Around the world in nine stages

Volvo Ocean Race: Around the world in nine stages-stages

Leaning: Skipper Ian Walker has maneuvered the "Abu Dhabi" into an extreme position. The rest of the sailors can’t be alarmed


Seven crews have nothing else on their minds than victory in the Volvo Ocean Race. It is already a success when all sailors reach their destination unharmed

VIan Walker doesn’t want to speak of fear at all. Especially not now. It is the last few hours before the toughest team race in sailing around the world begins. Barker is sitting at a table with porcelain dishes for about four weeks for the last time. Lisa, his wife, has taken a seat next to him, the two daughters are playing quietly on a nearby couch. When plates are brought to the table, Walker always wants to pass them on to the girls right away. For him, the children come first, and only then is it his own turn.

Walker’s gestures are clearer than words: for nine months his life will revolve around sailing, and the most difficult thing for him is the separation from his family, from his two daughters in his stomach. This feeling mixes with the hopes and worries of the months ahead on board the "Abu Dhabi".

The British is the skipper on this ship. He is the head of a team of eight. “I’m catching up with my family. After the race, I have more vacation than any other father, ”says Walker. After the race, that’s the problem.

Third attempt for Ian Walker

The Volvo Ocean Race was on Saturday last week started. Seven boats of the same type have made their way to the first stage destination. Around 6500 nautical miles lie ahead of the professional sailors of the "Abu Dhabi" and their competitors, who want to be the first to reach Cape Town in South Africa. This is Walker’s third attempt to win the race for the world. The last time, 2011/2012, it actually failed before the race had really started.

His mast broke on the first stage. This time it will, this time it has to be different. He and his team have trained for almost a year. They have traveled 19,000 miles on the water, they have crossed the Atlantic twice. His team is more experienced than any other. Together, the sailors of the "Abu Dhabi" have the experience of 20 Volvo Ocean Races. They show that they are good just outside the Alicante harbor basin. They are the second to leave the Spanish port city for South Africa. Only the Brunel team was better shortly after the start.

What is it actually, the Volvo Ocean Race, which has already become famous as Whitbread round The World Race? Many great sails have described their feelings, spoken of adventure, self-awareness, the great task that appeals to them so much.

Rapporteur on board

Knut Frostad, who is something like the race director and has participated twice as a sailor, finds other words. He and the teams have been looking for a reporter for each of the boats who will provide pictures, videos and texts during the race. The ocean race is modern, Anyone who wants to can follow what is happening on the boats online via on-board cameras. Frostad says, “We have told the applicants that they will have a terrible life in the months on board. We warned of catastrophic working conditions, insomnia, seasickness and bad eating. "

It was of no use: 2,500 candidates registered for the job on the seven boats. A lot of people want to take part, but maybe also because they have no idea what to expect. It is probably the same with professional sailors. They’re scrambling for the bone jobs on board the ships.

Walker is one of the favorites, that’s because of his vita. At the Olympics he won silver twice in the 470. But for himself it was two defeats. Where are the medals today? “I threw it somewhere,” he says. You can tell on his boat that he has two sides. The one, charming, with which he shines at a small speech at dinner, and the other: serious, focused and concentrated. He wants to win. He is not interested in second place.

Death of the sailing friends

Walker says phrases like, "Driving to the airport is more dangerous than sailing." This is not a good example. Walker’s Vita: This includes having had a serious car accident with his fellow sailor from 1996 in Atlanta, John Merricks, after winning his first Olympic medal. Walker survived, Merricks did not.

Walker also came into contact with death last year. Andrew "Bart" Simpson was one of his friends. His compatriot was killed while training for the America’s Cup with the Artemis off San Francisco. He drowned right under the monster cat. That was another stroke of fate for Walker.

Sailing is a sport that can be dangerous. Especially when it comes to offshore sailing, i.e. the boats are out on the seas. Head of racing Forstad points this out again and again.

"Things can go terribly wrong," he says. However, if you listen to him, you can’t be sure whether he is only thinking of the tragic death of Dutchman Hans Horrevoets, who was washed from deck during the 2006 race and drowned. With its warnings, Forstad also increases the attention of its listeners at the same time.

Sponsors know the danger

Also on board from Abu Dhabi is the watch brand IWC as a co-sponsor. The Swiss are also aware of the dangers on the water, but apparently nobody can imagine that something could actually go wrong.

Was there a plan in case of an accident? Goris Verburg, communications director at IWC, seems a little perplexed. In the past deep diving was promoted. Without oxygen bottle. IWC is now keeping its hands off that. You encourage sailing, but you don’t demand it, he says. Certainly not superhuman achievements. In any case, there is no emergency plan.

The first day of the race for the “Abu Dhabi” team went differently than planned. The race started at 2 p.m. and the next morning, at 5 a.m., the first crew members were able to crawl below deck. In their lousy, uncomfortable bunks. They are reminiscent of metal coffins.

The berths are located directly on the ship’s side. There is only one for two sailors. We sleep in shifts. A few meters ahead is the toilet on board. There is no door, no wall, no curtain. No toilet seat either. Living under these conditions for four weeks is difficult. But when the waves pile up meters high, cold and moisture accompany fear in the limbs, this life can become unbearable.

Sailors as friends

At dinner before the race, Walker smiled away at this notion. Now he’s on his way to Cape Town, the time for smiles is over. In the history of this race, it has only happened twice that crews started again unchanged. After eight months on a spartan boat, you have made friends for life. Or you are happy to never meet again.

Walker doesn’t think about it immediately before the race. He and his fellow sailors are friends. He can only promise one thing: “Whatever happens, my crew and I will never give up. Under no circumstances. ”This promise also has yet to be kept.

The trip to the start of the Volvo Ocean Race was supported by IWC. You can find our standards of transparency and journalistic independence at

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