Ian Walker doesn’t practice yoga or meditation but has other ways of looking after his mental health and dealing with stress. As we sat together in my living room, with his feet on the sofa and a cup of tea in his hand, he told me that he was sorry to disappoint me with his lack of spirituality.
‘I’m inherently a very practical bloke.’ he explained.
‘Athletes need important mental skills. And yes, I do worry.’ Admitted Ian.
‘Life on board is regimented.’
‘We do 4 hours on deck and 4 hours off over and over and over. In my off watch I still have to help with navigation. As soon as you’re off watch you have to eat and sleep as much as you can.’
Ian yawned as he said the word ‘sleep’.
Yesterday, Matt Knighton, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s onboard reporter wrote: “Wearing his stress and nervousness onboard, Ian hasn’t been able to sleep. His eyes are bloodshot, he’s jumpy for each perceived decrease in boat speed, and his familiar humour is subdued under a quieter exterior.”
Ian explained that all sorts of things go through his mind.
‘Principally, it’s about balancing performance against safety. Everyone onboard desperately wants to win the race. They don’t want a leader or a skipper who’s too cautious. There’s a fine line between being too cautious and taking undue risks and then suddenly find you’ve got either breaking equipment or putting people’s lives at risk.’
I asked for his advice on staying calm?
‘When you’ve done all you can, you are where you are and you gotta learn to live with that.’ Ian added.
Rules dictate that crew have no direct access to internet. They can email and send stuff off for the organisers to post, but they can’t access any websites as they could get information that would help with tactics.
‘We don’t know what’s going on with the other boats,’ Ian chuckled. ‘Sometimes we don’t know even know what’s going on on our boat!’
Now, everyone is up. Table Mountain is in sight. Azzam is leading the fleet in the approach to Cape Town.
Ian spoke with fondness about the last stopover in the South African city. Perhaps he will squeeze in a session of yoga and get some shut eye in leg 2.