x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Ian Walker confident Leg 5 will suit Azzam’s strengths

The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper is relishing the fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Auckland to South America as the course is 'extremely difficult but also downwind'.

Ian Walker is hoping Azzam will be able to capitalise if leaders Telefonica have a weak moment in the fifth leg.
Ian Walker is hoping Azzam will be able to capitalise if leaders Telefonica have a weak moment in the fifth leg.

The skipper of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is confident his crew can push for podium honours in Leg 5 as the team look to get their Volvo race campaign back on track after a tough first half to the round-the-world challenge.

Ian Walker's team sit fifth out of six in the standings and they face the onerous task of improving their position in the longest passage in the race which will feature sub-zero temperatures, the threat of yacht-crippling icebergs and howling arctic seas.

Yet Walker, the double Olympic medallist, is relishing the fifth leg as it will feature the Azzam crew's preferred downwind sailing.

"We are optimistic ahead of the next leg; we under no illusions that it will be extremely difficult but it is also downwind, and that is where our strengths hopefully lie," Walker said.

"We've still not really gone downwind, let's face it. Telefonica look like the gun boat but everyone's going to have their weaknesses at different times. We've got to hope.

"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."

A day before the start of the leg on Sunday, the team will seek to continue their impressive in-port race run of form. The team have won two of the last four in-port races, including a home victory in the UAE capital.

And Walker believes that for the younger Abu Dhabi crew members making their global race debuts, including the Emirati Adil Khalid, the first Gulf national to compete in the event, the rounding of Cape Horn - the sailing pinnacle off South America - will be an experience to remember.

"The next leg is already on everybody's mind," Walker said. "You have to keep your wits about you, it can be very dangerous but exhilarating at the same time."