WEATHER AUTHORITY : Heat Advisory - Flood Advisory View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Extreme Sailing: Experiencing 'Formula One' on water

The GC32 catamaran is flying two meters above Cardiff Bay at breakneck speed, and I am holding on for dear l...

Posted: Sep 6, 2018 6:22 PM
Updated: Sep 6, 2018 6:22 PM

The GC32 catamaran is flying two meters above Cardiff Bay at breakneck speed, and I am holding on for dear life.

Racing towards the first turn as driving rain lashes the Welsh coast line, a huge gust of wind throws the SAP Extreme Sailing boat sideways. It shudders for what seems like an eternity, and then steadies itself.

Accidents

Accidents, disasters and safety

Auto racing

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Companies

Formula One

Marine transportation

Marine vessels

Motor sports organizations

Motorsports

Sailing (sport)

SAP

Ship and boat accidents

Sports and recreation

Sports organizations and teams

Transportation and warehousing

Water sports

Weather

"THREE, TWO, ONE. GO!' shouts helmsman Adam Minoprio, as the 32-foot boat crashes back down onto the water with a deafening sound before performing the equivalent of a handbrake turn in less time than it takes Usain Bolt to run 100 meters.

Rocketship

As a guest sailor in the Extreme Sailing Series, I am sitting at the front of the catamaran, desperately hanging on to two handles attached to a bit of netting, when dozens of liters of sea water land right in my face.

Before I can shake my head, the 2,000-pound rocketship lifts off again on its foils -- which feels very much like taking off in an airplane -- to race towards the finish line on the other side of the bay at more than 60 kph (37 mph).

Minoprio shouts more instructions to his supremely fit four-man crew, who work frantically to control the boat as they winch sails and hydrofoils while trying to keep their balance.

"Well done!" says trim assist/grinder Julius Hallström, a powerfully built Swede, as he slaps me on the back with a big grin as I leave the boat at the end of two practice laps, my heart pounding in my chest.

Stadium racing

I guess they really meant it when they called this the "Extreme Sailing Series" when it first started in 2007.

Growing up in the Netherlands, I used to go sailing as a child in the northern provinces. Most of this involved rather sedate trips on a slow wooden sailing boat on sunny days and on calm waters.

But this is sailing of an entirely different kind: it's high-octane, high-speed stuff with the adrenaline pumping as the boats sometimes come within barely a meter of crashing into each other while negotiating the compact course.

Often called the "Formula One" of the seas, the Extreme Sailing circuit is unique in two ways. Unlike most other sailing races, Extreme Sailing events are designed for spectators, who can watch the world's top sailors go into battle in races taking between 10 and 15 minutes that are held close to the shore in stadium circuits in the Middle East, Europe and the Americas.


Guest sailor

The other unique aspect of the series is that non-sailors like me have the opportunity to join the five-man crew as a guest sailor.

"It's like playing a doubles match with Serena Williams," said SAP Extreme Sailing Team skipper Rasmus Køstner. "You won't see anything in any other sport that is like that."

"We have a great passion for sailing, and often sailing is a sport that is a little bit hard to explain," adds Jes Gram-Hansen, who founded the SAP team with fellow Dane and America's Cup team mate Køstner in 2011 when they invested $400,000 in buying a boat.

"A lot of the interaction with the crew is within a split-second," said Gram-Hansen. "People that go on the boat get a very good understanding of this sport and how challenging it can be."

Ben Ainslie

Over the years, Extreme Sailing has attracted some of the best sailors in the world, ranging from Olympic, world and European champions to America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race competitors, including Britain's four-time Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie.

Over the course of four days in Cardiff Bay, seven teams contest 29 short races, and travel a total distance of 453 nautical miles, according to SAP Analytics, which has been providing the sailors with data and analysis since 2012.

READ: Sailing the world with a baby

READ: Pioneer Tracy Edwards sets sail again

Double capsize

Racing on such short courses at the speed of a car is not without danger.

The day before I joined the team for a practice run, they capsized when a strong gust of wind caught the boat, submerging both hulls.

During the skipper's press conference the next day, there were a lot jokes being cracked about incident.

"It's probably a case of win or swim," quips Oman Air skipper Phil Robertson. "Mast up in the air is a good day."

It's enough to make me a tad nervous, particularly with gusts of between 22 and 26 knots forecast for our practice run, after it was deemed too dangerous for me to join the actual race.

"Just hold on tight, don't try and climb higher, but make sure you exit sideways," said Hallström, as I walk onto the boat, dressed in waterproof trousers and jacket and a helmet. "But don't worry, we will take care of you."

After I exit the GC32 to enter its follow boat with SAP team principal and coach Gram-Hansen on board, the Red Bull Sailing Team boat almost capsizes as it gets caught by a gust of wind.

On the third day of racing in Cardiff, once again with strong winds and torrential rain, the Oman Air boat and Team Wales both capsized within moments of each other. Although no one got seriously hurt, one Oman Air crew member was taken back to dry land after sustaining an injury.

"Most people think sailing is a very romantic sport," said Gram-Hansen. "That you are out there, cruising along, chilling out. And this is exactly the opposite. This is so intense, there is so much power in the boat, they go really fast."

Visit CNN.com/sailing for more news and features

The next event will be held in San Diego between October 18 and 21, followed by the season finale in Los Cabos, Mexico, from November 29 to December 2.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 333180

Reported Deaths: 7502
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22901279
Hinds22780438
Harrison19569326
Rankin14851287
Jackson14342251
Madison10692227
Lee10437179
Jones8746169
Forrest8210157
Lauderdale7561243
Lowndes6790150
Lamar669688
Lafayette6459124
Washington5516139
Pearl River4915149
Bolivar4909134
Oktibbeha478498
Panola4723112
Marshall4654106
Warren4640127
Pontotoc440473
Monroe4255137
Union425379
Neshoba4182180
Lincoln4098115
Hancock405088
Leflore3565125
Pike3530112
Tate349588
Alcorn343974
Sunflower343093
Adams333387
Scott331775
Yazoo331173
Simpson314890
Copiah313867
Itawamba310180
Coahoma308785
Tippah298868
Prentiss292963
Covington282483
Marion279580
Leake278475
Wayne270743
Grenada266388
George261651
Newton256664
Tishomingo236869
Winston235584
Jasper226148
Attala220873
Chickasaw216360
Stone210237
Holmes195674
Clay192254
Clarke182080
Tallahatchie181742
Calhoun177532
Smith175935
Yalobusha169440
Walthall141548
Lawrence137726
Greene135734
Amite132843
Noxubee131635
Perry131038
Montgomery130944
Carroll124531
Webster117532
Jefferson Davis113334
Tunica111127
Benton104625
Claiborne104331
Kemper100729
Humphreys99133
Franklin85923
Quitman83519
Choctaw81319
Wilkinson74632
Jefferson69728
Sharkey51518
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 570667

Reported Deaths: 11483
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson834821584
Mobile45819855
Madison36785532
Tuscaloosa26757465
Shelby26612255
Montgomery25739624
Baldwin23810325
Lee16801181
Calhoun15130332
Morgan14941289
Etowah14662368
Marshall12806235
Houston11515292
Elmore10654217
St. Clair10521251
Limestone10472158
Cullman10257204
Lauderdale9991253
DeKalb9298191
Talladega8739187
Walker7594286
Autauga7419113
Jackson7269117
Blount7184139
Colbert6583142
Coffee6045131
Dale5326117
Russell465842
Chilton4645117
Covington4579125
Franklin444381
Tallapoosa4379157
Escambia420082
Chambers3852125
Dallas3688163
Clarke364462
Marion3380106
Pike324879
Lawrence3192101
Winston291072
Bibb280165
Geneva271583
Marengo258567
Barbour243461
Pickens239162
Butler236172
Hale231878
Fayette224564
Henry205145
Randolph194944
Cherokee193948
Monroe192141
Washington177139
Macon167552
Crenshaw164458
Clay162559
Cleburne159145
Lamar149538
Lowndes144354
Wilcox129231
Bullock125642
Conecuh118130
Coosa116029
Perry109928
Sumter108032
Greene97836
Choctaw63825
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 77°
Feels Like: 91°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
77° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 76°
Feels Like: 78°
Oxford
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 75°
Feels Like: 82°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
77° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 75°
Feels Like: 78°
Tuesday more very hot and humid conditions will be the rule across our area. Some isolated to scattered showers and thunderstorms will be possible at times. A few heavy and hefty thunderstorms cannot be ruled out of the question at times.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather