Recent Volvo Ocean Race winner Ian Walker, double silver Olympic medalist gives his views on the upcoming Rolex Fastnet Race
Enjoy the race everyone - Ian Walker
"I am sure it won't be long before I get back on a boat again. I nearly did the Rolex Fastnet this year but I managed to stop myself. I decided it was more important to have a family holiday," says Ian Walker after winning the 2014/2015 Volvo Ocean Race after almost nine months of racing.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper, Ian Walker has become the first British skipper to win the Volvo Ocean Race. Ian is a long standing RORC member and competed in his first Fastnet Race in 1997.
"My first Fastnet Race was in a Mumm 36, the last race of the Admiral's Cup. I remember that for a lot of days I was sitting on the side of a very small boat getting very wet, but we won that race overall and on handicap, which was pretty cool. I did a very light race on the TP52, Patches and I think we led at the Rock (Fastnet), but by the time we got to the finish, we were pretty much last on handicap as the wind came in from behind to help the small boats.
"I have done two races on Volvo 70s and set the record in 2011 with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. That year it was quite a cool race, a slow start but it got really windy. From the Scilly Isles to the finish it was pretty much 30 knots and full-on reaching.
"The Fastnet is an interesting race and it changes a lot with the conditions. A classic Fastnet start is all about beating out of the Solent. If you are in a bigger boat you are trying to make the tide at Portland. In a smaller boat you might struggle to make Portland. How you handle that can define your whole race. The headlands and the tidal gates make the race fun and there is certainly a lot of preparation that needs to be done by the navigator - there are a lot of big decisions to be made and in smaller boats it is even more important to get the current right at all the headlands.
"For many competitors, the Fastnet will be the longest race of their season and potentially some of the worst conditions they will sail in - preparation for that is everything. You have to be personally prepared with your clothing and safety equipment, or else you will be uncomfortable and you won't sail well. It's no good stuffing three days of pizzas down below, the crew need to be properly fed and motivated. The best mantra is that the race can be decided in the last 12 hours and you need to keep yourself in good condition to make the correct decisions for the conditions and sail fast towards the end of the race, not just the beginning.
"Keeping the boat in one piece is crucial if you don't want to get into a situation where you have to slow down - sail care is a big part of that. Getting a reef in stops flogging and damage to your sails. You need an offshore mentality and have all of your sails available for the whole race.
"The Fastnet is an iconic event. What is fantastic about it is that you have professional sailors trying to break records but you also have sailors who are taking on their biggest challenge of the year. If it is your first Fastnet, it is a tremendous achievement to complete the race, but for me the important thing about offshore racing is: enjoy the company, keep safe and push the boat as hard as you can and finally enjoy the stories in the bar afterwards - Enjoy the race everyone."
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