Portrait of a Champion – Ian Walker

Determined & focused.

As the Spanish school summer holidays are 10 weeks long, all parents are faced with the dilema of how to keep them out of boredom while holding a job. So our kids were shipped off to Club Nautico Arenal (CNA) sailing camp at the tender ages of 4 (Paula) and 3 (Ian) years old. The reason was due to our family background of sailing and conservation of marine life.

Winter in Mallorca.

The development progression consisted of swimming, kayaking and making sand castles on the beach. Then 8 kids-up on a 2 sail dinghy (similar to GP14) with a monitor onboard. Then double-handed on a Laser Pico dinghy. Finally once they developed confidence, they were sent out to sea in Optimists.

Then they get promoted to the novice racing class, which together with the A,B & C groups (40-45 kids) sail all day Saturday and Sunday until 2pm during school term. There are 8 active clubs in Mallorca, which all hold their own regatta which attracts a fleet of over 150 regular active sailors. It goes without saying this is every Federation’s dream to have depth in members.

Looking back I remember fondly the close sailing relationship I shared with my parents in SA, but I must now admit the concept in Spain to give the club and coaches full control over development does have benefits. Thankfully we still get to enjoy those diner time sailing discussions as a family.

Team racing practice in Palma.

Paula now races comfortably in the junior BIC Techno windsurf class, and Ian has become part of the club’s 1st Team to travel to the mainland to become comfortable with vast testing conditions. Thankfully his school tutors understand and give homework to take along, as he knows if grades suffer, we will pull the plug!

South African at heart!

In 2016 we planned a long Xmas holiday to SA. Our expat friends from CT living in Mallorca suggested Ian should race in the Junior Nationals in Theewaterskloof, and with a stroke of luck it was the Dabchick 50th Anniversary to keep Dad entertained.

The SA Optimist community was so accommodating, it turned out to be a smooth ride full of action.

Ian was welcomed into the scene from day 1, and given a great boat thanks to Roger Hudson from Race Ahead and the amazing support from the Ashwell family.

A year later I needed to visit my elderly folks in Durban, so decided to drag Ian along for the Midmar Youth Nationals. Again the warm support made it a pleasure, whereby friendships on and off the water were strengthened.

Focused! SA Youth Nationals 2017.

We are firm believers in positive thinking, whereby his SA Citizenship opened the door to accept the generous offer from SAS to fill the open slot in the SA Worlds Team. Thanks Cal for your efforts to make this happen.

Ian on his way to victory.
Ian Walker Optimist Champion. SA Youth National Championships 2017.

Ian is so grateful to be given this opportunity, as all the subsequent intense training has taken him to the next level which has paid dividends with his results so far in Cyprus. Long way to go!

Opening ceremony Optimist Worlds 2018, Limassol Cyprus.

Together Shellee and Claire have found a favorable balance to cater to the boys personal technical needs and create an enjoyable atmosphere for lasting memories.

Team RSA 2018. Ian, Keagan, Karl, Matt, Claire & Bryan.

Upon writing this I’m watching Matt, Keagan, Brian, Karl and Ian as 37th ranked team beat 12th ranked Hungary in the team racing World Champs. After that, they narrowly lost to Australia (13th) and Chile (21st), all along flying the flag proudly.

Pre-Worlds training in Limassol.

Then on 3rd September the boys will take on their respective World Championship ranked fleets in phase 2 of the regatta giving it their all.

Good luck boys.

It’s great to share the experience with you.

Clive, Ian, Matt & Gavin at the SA Youth Nationals, Midmar Kwazulu Natal.


Best regards

Clive Walker

(Editor’s note: Ian has qualified for the Gold Fleet going into the final days of racing for the Optimist Worlds 2018)