A cross between a bullet and an aeroplane 04/8/07

A cross between a bullet and an aeroplane.

“Ok guys full power, 30 seconds from the line.” Announced Rob Greenhalgh to his crew, some of the best asymmetric sailors in the world; Justin Slattery sheets on the gib and James Grant and Peter Greenhalgh grunt in the main and we are flying, quite literally, towards the start line. Elevated some 15 feet in the air, it is like riding on a bird’s wing, gliding above the Solent.

Two tacks and we are at the top mark, at fourteen knots upwind, we cover the two mile beat in just over eight minutes. The bare away is like a spin at the fair ground and the crew work is frantic. The spinnaker is hoisted in seconds and we are off down the run at twenty knots of pure boat speed, kissing the waves.

The adrenaline rush, riding an Extreme 40 downwind, is quite an experience. It is almost bizarre, hurtling along at speeds in excess of twenty knots, in an eerie vacuum of silence. Time seems to stand still, it is only when you look below you through the trampoline net that you realise that the water is passing at an alarming rate.

The boats are very simple in design, you could say minimalist but they have to be; one jybe and five minutes later, Basilica makes the bottom mark, there is little time to do any preparations or bark orders. The crew work has to be slick; automatic, inch perfect.

Three times round the course and the race is over; twelve miles in barely forty minutes, it is non-stop action. In between races the crew take on water and recover, this is an all action, high octane sport. Five races a day of extremely physical sailing means fitness is a big issue. The crew are all fired up on adrenalin, it is a wild ride but harnessing the beast is part of the art of winning the race, as much as grunting up to the physical challenge.

The world class crew on Basilica are pumped up, they almost seemed addicted to the buzz but it is one hell of a blast.


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