Walker buoyed by return to ‘Everest’

Plans are afoot to demolish Lee-on-the-Solent Sailing Club and rebuilding it along with new flats. 
Picture: Google Maps

REVEALED: Sailing club set to be demolished for new club house – and 12 flats

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Ian Walker is hoping for a change of fortune as the Volvo Ocean Race heads back into familiar waters.

This weekend the fleet sets sail from Auckland for the challenging depths of the Southern Ocean.

After three legs on a less than magical mystery tour around sponsor-funded stopovers in The Gulf and China, the race returns to its roots on Sunday with a no-holds-barred charge through the most remote waters on the planet.

And while there is a degree of trepidation, the 6,705-mile leg to Itajal in Brazil – the longest in the race – also offers opportunities, not least to the underperforming Abu Dhabi entry Azzam.

After another fifth place finish in Auckland, skipper Walker is hoping a change in sailing conditions will bring improved results.

‘We’ve still not really gone downwind, let’s face it,’ said the Warsash-based racer.

‘We’ve done six weeks sailing in this race so far and I think four and a half have been upwind.

‘We have to get the spinnakers up and maybe it will be a different story.

‘You just have to keep believing, keep trying your best and good things will happen.’

With Azzam down in fifth place, even a dramatic improvement in the five remaining legs may be too little, too late for Walker.

He is looking forward to the challenge, though.

‘The next leg is already on everybody’s mind,’ he said.

‘It really is classic Volvo Ocean Race.

‘You have to keep your wits about you – it can be very dangerous but exhilarating at the same time.

‘For the first-timers, rounding Cape Horn will be a highlight – it’s the sailor’s equivalent of climbing Mount Everest.’

It’s a view of the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties – as the high latitudes of the Southern Ocean are dubbed – shared by fellow Hampshire sailor and race leading Team Telefónica watch captain Neal McDonald.

‘It’s a fearsome place and deserves a great deal of respect,’ he said. 

‘Climbing Everest is not particularly risk free or glamorous but people want to do it for the challenge and it’s the same with the Southern Ocean.’