It’s not everyday you get the opportunity to join a team of Olympians and sailing champions to sit onboard a catamaran in the Extreme Sailing racing series. We love adventure and we’ve even skydived before but nothing was to prepare us for this experience.
The Extreme Sailing series was in Sydney and EFTM was invited to join onboard. We decided race day, Sunday, would be ideal, lovely weather, sailing in Sydney Harbour would be gorgeous. We might not have read into the detail before saying yes.
The Red Bull super-light GC32 catamaran can reach speeds up to 74km/h, on water this is an extreme speed without a motor! The GC32 catamaran runs two hulls with essentially some netting and poles holding it all together. No comfy seating here. The GC32 is capable of “flying” thanks to foils that are deployed from the hulls into the water essentially creating wings that lift the catamaran out of the water as it slices along using the foils. Again, not a cruisy sail!
We arrive in the morning and with almost a sigh of relief we are informed that the winds are too strong for us to board the catamaran, we’re moved onto the support boat for a great view though.
After a warm up and some tests the all clear is given and within seconds we have a helmet on, life jacket and find ourselves sitting towards the front right on a net. Our safety briefing: hold onto the net beneath you!
Arranging these fast catamarans for a race is not easy, eventually we line up and within moments the sheer speed of these GC32’s is evident. From the support boat it looks slightly fast, onboard though it is terrifying. We hold on for dear life while a crew of only five is busy running, jumping and working this Red Bull catamaran around a course, finding the best wind, steering, raising/lowering the sails and so much more. We rarely looked back to really see what they were up to but could certainly feel the impact it had on the Red Bull catamaran.
From where we were sitting it was hard to know if we were winning, at some times it was hard to see, water hits you from underneath, right in your face and at one point we thought the catamaran was tipping over entirely. Despite being a guest on their catamaran, the team were ruthless in their efforts to win a race, and rightfully so. The moment of hitting “peak wind” in our words was rather amazing. You can see your sailing marker in the distance, the sails are all deployed and the wind pushes you forward rapidly. The foils are lowered by the team and looking through the net you see yourself rising. The hulls on either side are no longer in the water and the sails are silent, full of air. The only sound is from the foils, if slicing had a sound, this was it. Almost like the sound from sharpening a knife yet absolutely constant. It’s a moment of almost terrifying bliss, engineering marvel combined with nature. Within moments you’re pushed heavily into the water as you not only reach the marker but need to navigate around it. This goes on for around 20 minutes.
The weekend included a number of races for the Red Bull team to put in their efforts. Overall in the series they have achieved third place. While not everyone will get the chance to do this in their lives, pay attention next time they are in town and watch from the shore, it’s extremely entertaining and enjoyable to watch.
More info: redbullextremesailing.com