x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

What's it like... to be an extreme sailor

Pete Cumming is skipper of Oman Sail Masirah. He is the European Extreme Sailing Series champion and added the Asian title to the list at home in Muscat last week.

Extreme sailing is very different. It is the Formula One of sailing boats. For me, there is nothing that can get near it, the speed, excitement and the other aspects of it with the nature of our racing. We race very, very fast in very, very confined spaces like the canals of Amsterdam and the Hong Kong harbour. So we travel at very high speeds in very small areas. I think it's about as much fun as you can get on water without an injury. When we race in the harbours and small spaces, it's very much like a street circuit for an F1 car. You don't have enough space and you don't have any safety. If it goes wrong, you are into concrete walls.

So there is an inevitable danger, but that's why the level of the sailors is very, very high because if you make mistakes, the boat will really punish you. When the wind is up, you are 50 per cent in control, 50 per cent out of control. So it is definitely a very exciting race. I think that's what attracts the sponsors and following. There are a lot of people who follow the circuit because they enjoy watching the videos and seeing the speeds that we reach. It's definitely got the right mix at the moment.

We can reach speeds of 40 knots, which would be about 75kmph on land. When we were in Hong Kong, we were doing 32 knots when were at the back of the island. When the water is flat and the wind is 15-20 knots, that's when you reach your fastest speeds. The most extreme moment we had was probably when we were in the UK. We were just training. It was quite a windy day and the waves were very, very steep. We were sailing down-wind and racing with two of the French teams.

We were pushing quite hard. The boat was 40ft long and we had 20ft of it, from the front to the middle of the boat, under the water, really standing point nose, with the rudders down. I was pretty much ready to jump off then and that's the closest I have come to drowning. We were all looking to get off the boat at that point because that was getting quite scary. That incident aside, whenever I go sailing out, I come in with a smile on my face because the boats are just so much fun.

I think if you want an adrenaline rush, you cannot get better than the Extreme 40s. That's for sure. Pete Cumming is skipper of Oman Sail Masirah. He is the European Extreme Sailing Series champion and added the Asian title to the list at home in Muscat last week. @Email:sports@thenational.ae