Scary sailing on a fast boat

A first hand experience by The National staffer after just one session on the choppy seas.

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The first impression from a frightening two-hour sail on what is the world's best RC44 yacht was how supremely fit the crew members must be. Yesterday's official practice race involving all 10 boats competing in the Sea Dubai Gold Cup was the prelude to a series of up to 21 races over the next five days. I was a physical wreck after just one session on the choppy seas outside Dubai Marina and all I had done was react speedily to the crying of "tacking guys" from our helmsman Cameron Appleton to avoid as he put it "going swimming through being on the wrong side of the boat".

Appleton, a veteran of three America's Cup campaigns, was indignant when he caught me sitting on one of the ropes near the back of the boat which consequently snagged when his crew members were trying to release it. Apart from that embarrassing chastisement, I did not interfere too much with the preparations of Team Aqua for what they hope will be a victorious finale to a series of six regattas in this comparatively new sailing class.

It soon became apparent why Team Aqua are favourites to take overall honours in this year's competition. They had most of the other nine boats behind them for the bulk of the serious action which took place on the high seas after a lengthy warm-up session on the calmer waters inside the marina. I found myself urging our crew to get the better of the BMW Oracle team in a final sprint for glory until our skipper bafflingly disqualified himself by going outside the finishing mark.

Appleton eventually explained the reasoning behind the move. "It has come to be considered unlucky to win the practice race, so we chose not to complete it," he said. "But we are pretty happy with the way things went. "It was good preparation for us to maintain our confidence that we can retain our lead in the overall points standings. "If we keep sailing as well as a group and keep doing the basics right then we should be fine," added Appleton, who told his crew they had made only one bad manoeuvre - failing to cover an attack of their water by Oracle.