In the last edition of the 41-year-old race, Walker and his Abu Dhabi Ocean Race were forced to motor back to shore on the very first night of the event after their mast was snapped in a Mediterranean storm.
This time, their Volvo Ocean 65 one-design boat held up without a serious problem during the 6,487 nautical miles from Alicante, Spain to the first leg destination port of Cape Town. It took 25 days and three hours to complete.
But the opening stage took a heavy toll on Walker who was harried all the way by the rest of the fleet, including second-placed Chinese boat Dongfeng Race Team who closed to within three miles during the final 24 hours of racing.
Walker refused to take a breather over the final two days, helming the boat or poring over data from the onboard satellite navigational system which also tracks the other boats in the seven-strong fleet.
The boat鈥檚 onboard reporter, Matt Knighton, painted a vivid picture of Walker and his anxieties.
鈥淲earing his stress and nervousness onboard, Ian hasn鈥檛 been able to sleep. His eyes are bloodshot, he鈥檚 jumped for each perceived decrease in boat speed and his familiar humour is subdued under a quieter exterior,鈥?he told Race HQ.
Walker and his crew will have two weeks to recuperate before the fleet sets sail again on Nov. 19 for the second leg to Abu Dhabi.
In all, the boats will cover 38,487nm during the nine-month marathon race which is generally reckoned to be offshore sailing鈥檚 toughest professional challenge. It concludes in Gothenburg, Sweden on June 27 next year.
The other five boats of the fleet are expected to finish Leg 1 over the next three days with the all-women鈥檚 crew of Team SCA bringing up the rear.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)