If we have to spend our time learning how to do maneuvers, I’ve selected the wrong guys,” says Ian Walker. The Englishman, who is on his third Volvo Ocean Race, hedged wrong on the hull design in the last edition and paid for it all the way. With no speed there was no motivation, no team chemistry.
“I’ve got a much different group this time,” says Walker. “These guys actually get along.”
His teammates say he’s highly motivated to make good on his two unsuccessful campaigns, and Abu Dhabi Tourism has given him strong support, and high expectations. Of all the teams in the lineup, Walker has enlisted more veterans than any, including Spaniard Roberto Bermúdez de Castro, Irishman Justin Slattery, and even the young British navigator Simon Fisher, who will be spending less time routing and more time driving. Also key in Abu Dhabi’s lineup is Luke Parkinson, one of the team’s two under-30 crew. The Australian was his country’s young offshore sailor of the year in 2012.
The Abu Dhabi stopover of 2012 was as sophisticated and grandiose as they come, with the tourism department organizing a massive party over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday, and Walker says the race can expect more of the same.
“I regret that one area of the campaign we failed last time,” says Walker. “We didn’t get the point across about how incredible a destination Abu Dhabi is. Even the families of the sailors were reluctant to go to the stopover, but that won’t be the case this time.”
Walker, of course, has a few things on the agenda this time around, his hopes riding on his yacht Azzam and the eclectic mix of sailors he’s assembled. The boat’s name is Arabic for “determined,” appropriate in many ways.