Complex Made Simple

Ian Walker: Man of the ocean

The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) team, led by skipper Ian Walker, won the prestigious Volvo Ocean race in Sweden earlier this month, celebrating the massive win with IWC, the timekeeper of the race.

After the entire duration of the race, which lasted for nine months, Aficionado catches up with Ian Walker, the skipper of the team, to congratulate him on the win and get a sneak peek into his life.

Congratulations on the win. Tell us about the race: what were the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
There are many challenges to overcome when sailing around the world, but the biggest one is trying to beat the opposition. The race was very close, with both boats often minutes apart after sailing for 5000 miles or more. The pace is relentless and it is, of course, 24 hours per day, seven days a week. The heat was almost unbearable in the tropics and of course it was very cold in the Southern Ocean. Our biggest storm was off Argentina, where we had over 50 knots of wind and nasty seas for quite long periods of time. As with all big tasks, you get through them by breaking them down and tackling them bit by bit. We work in four-hour shifts or watches onboard.

When you’re not sailing, how do you spend your time?
I spend as much time as I can with my wife and two daughters. My favourite hobbies are kite-surfing, cycling, tennis and watching West Ham football and England cricket. To be honest, I can follow or watch most sports.

You have received the IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph “Ocean Racer”, a lovely and expensive watch. Given that you are always on the move and probably barely on land, how do you preserve your personal goods?
I generally keep the watch on my wrist so I know it is safe. It also looks great there. On the boat, I sometimes take it off to keep it safe and we have a box we keep everyone’s watches in.  I think it is difficult to have any personal style as a professional Volvo Race sailor.

What are the three items that are always in your travel bag?
Off the boat, I would say laptop, passport and phone. On the boat I would say iPod, thermals and a hat.

If and when you retire, which city would you be living in, or would you like to live on a boat?
I have been fortunate to have visited some fantastic places in the world. I am not a big fan of cities and would always prefer to live by the sea. I do love Lisbon and, in particular, Cascais, just north of Lisbon.

What was the longest time you have spent sailing? Please tell us the story behind it: how it impacted you and the challenges you faced.
In 2009, we sailed from Qingdao, China, to Rio de Janeiro in Brasil in leg five of the Volvo Ocean race. It took 43 days but we only had food for 38 so I lost seven kilos. It was 12,300 miles or 12 time zones and we had to cross the Southern Ocean and round Cape Horn. It was my first time round the Horn and the whole trip was a huge adventure – I never knew what to expect and am proud to have completed it.

How has IWC supported you for the race?
Firstly, they are a commercial partner for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, but IWC are also the official timekeepers fort the race. I have enjoyed visits to the headquarters in Schaffhausen and we have all undertaken watchmaking classes with their master watchmaker. It is great having such a well-respected brand supporting our team and we are very proud to have won the IWC 24-hour record trophy.

How do you link the spirit of IWC to your world and lifestyle?
There are so many parallels between the technology in our boat and IWC watches, but the spirit is more important. I hope people aspire to compete, sail around the world or chase any dream as I have done, just as they would aspire to own and wear an IWC watch.

Going forward, what’s next for you?
Right now, I just want to spend time with my family. My daughters are sailing for two weeks at a junior regatta where I will help out and then we will go on family holiday. I think it will take three months to recover mentally and physically from the race.