Skipper pushes vessel to breaking point before race

Ian Walker wants to find any problems before he sets sail.

Provided photo of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team, who will race in the Volvo Ocean Race in Abu Dhabi in 2012 
shown Ian Walker Ð Skipper (UK)
Courtesy  Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority
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ABU DHABI // Most sailors try to keep their boats in top condition. But Ian Walker, the skipper of Abu Dhabi's Ocean Racing, says he is trying to break his.

It is all part of his preparations for the Volvo Ocean Race - a round-the-world race with the world's best sailors battling all types of weather conditions over 72,728km (39,270 nautical miles). Walker is experienced, having raced in the 2008-2009 competition, which lasted nine months.

"There are always things which don't work as you planned or designed. There are always things that break and we have to know what's vulnerable. It's important that we effectively try to break the boat as much as we can before the start of the race," Walker said.

Until the race starts in October 2011, he and his crew of 10 will train in the gym six mornings a week for an hour-and-a-half. By 9am, they are working on the boat and by the time the wind picks up at 1pm, they are sailing.

A lot of the equipment and techniques are tested at sea, then fixed or modified back on land. "Once we launch the new boat in June, it may take two months to get the bugs out - if we're lucky," he said.

The ports also play a big role for the competitors, he added, and each has its own flavour.

The friendliness and enthusiasm of the people of India stuck out for him, he said, and China was about the sheer numbers and the visual impact of the drummers when the teams arrived.

"The secret for Abu Dhabi is to display everything that is fantastic about this place. There's the strong history of dhow sailing and the culture. I think there will be no problem making this stop over really stand out," he said.