Riding the waves on a futuristic trampoline
By Tessa Walsh
COWES, England, (Reuters) - The initial fear of being on a huge trampoline net the size of a tennis court as it tilts at 45 degrees is quickly replaced by the sheer exhilaration of flying across the water at more than 30 knots (55.56 km per hour) in one of the world’s fastest boats, the 70-foot trimaran Musandam-Oman Sail.
The multihull flagship yacht of the Sultanate of Oman’s fleet, part of an ambitious sailing program designed to restore the country’s maritime heritage and boost tourism, has been competing in Cowes Week.
The famous regatta on England’s south coast caps a successful season for the team of Omani and European sailors.
Skippered by French yachtsman Sidney Gavignet, they were getting ready for the famously tough bi-annual Rolex Fastnet Race, aiming to win the 46th edition of the 603-mile race from Cowes to the Fastnet Rock off the south west coast of Ireland.
Morale is high after Musandam-Oman Sail were first over the line in the annual Artemis Challenge race around the Isle of Wight last week against 16 of the biggest ocean racing yachts after taking advantage of two helpful wind shifts.
“It was perfect to show off a bit, it’s what this boat was made for, to keep eyes on Oman. We are doing something to make sure people are looking at us,” Gavignet said.
Gavignet, who steers the massive 16-metre wide yacht with a tiller from a reclining office-like chair on top of one of the boat’s three hulls that can fly up to 10 meters above the water, is helping Oman to create a core team of sailors who are rapidly gathering experience and expertise.