Warsash sailor prepares to defend title in Volvo Ocean Race
Sailor Ian Walker from Warsash will be taking to the seas once again in the Rolex Fastnet Race with his team aiming to defend their title.
Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker eyes strong return to action in the Volvo Ocean Race (pic: Paul Todd)
The British double Olympic medallist and skipper of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and its history making Azzam Volvo 70 race yacht will return to top level competition in the UK this August with a fortnight of training and competitive sailing, culminating with the defence of its Rolex Fastnet Race title.
Having made history as the first Arabian contender in the global, nine-month 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race, the team will get its 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race campaign in full swing at the flagship Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week sailing festival (August 3 to 10).
It will take on three Big Boat Races during Cowes Week, and then the team – which will be based in Gosport – will trial key under-30 crew members in race conditions, before taking on the Rolex Fastnet Race (August 11 to 13).
The team won in the fastnet race in record time in 2011 in 42 hours and 39 minutes.
“It is exciting to be getting Azzam ready to sail again,” said Walker, a two-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran.
“You become quite attached to a yacht when you spend so much time sailing it around the world. Cowes Week has always been one of my favourite regattas since I was a kid. It will be a bit scary sailing such a big, fast boat in the confines of the Solent but I think the Big Boat Races will be spectacular.
“The Fastnet is an iconic race. It was great to break the monohull race record in 2011 but we will need some good fortune to defend it against a few larger, faster boats in 2013.
“Having started our first Volvo Ocean Race campaign at Cowes in 2011, it is fitting that we have gone full circle to start our next title push here again.”
Walker said crew trials and training in a competitive race environment is the top goal for the summer and will be key to the team’s success.
The Big Boat Races, which will likely include a race around the Isle of Wight, a 40 mile passage race, and a race around the Solent marks off England’s South Coast, will officially mark Azzam’s return to competition since completing the Volvo Ocean Race in Galway, Ireland last July.
The Rolex Fastnet Race – the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s iconic 608-mile race around the Fastnet Rock, which will see the largest entrant in its 89-year history – will be the final summer test for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, with Azzam going up for sale shortly after.