Cardiff is a great place to sail. There is so much to see sailing around the Bay, or heading out into the Bristol Channel through the lock. Tactically it is really challenging if you’re racing because of how shifty the wind is. But even if you just want a cruise then it’s great to be able to park up at Cardiff Bay and go for lunch or a drink in one of the many restaurants and bars.
When the Extreme Sailing Series comes to town, Cardiff Bay is really alive with action.
I always like taking a picnic and walking along the Barrage to watch the racing, it is really chilled and you always get lots of action because the course comes really close in. That’s part of the appeal of the Series and its unique Stadium Racing concept.
However if you want more of a hustle and bustle, then going into Cardiff Bay itself and watching near the VIP Extreme Club tent is a pretty good spot, especially to watch the starts!
The GC32’s are super physical boats. Although I’ve not sailed them myself, I chat to all the guys and girls on board and it sounds full on. There is so much to do getting the sails up and down, the boards up and down and pushing the boats to their full potential. Especially racing around Cardiff Bay when the course is super short - meaning more manoeuvres so more physical effort.
The course itself is always really tricky tactically. If the wind is in the North then it’s blowing from St Davids hotel and comes either side of it, as well as over and down. This makes the gusts hard to predict, so it’s difficult to position the boat. To be honest though, any direction creates tactical challenges which requires eyes out the boat at all times – you have to make sure you are ready for whatever the next opportunity around the racecourse is.
As the Flying Phantoms and GC32s are both catamarans, they are fairly different tactically to the 470 racing that I do. Physically it depends on the conditions for the 470 - if it’s light winds, it’s not so physical but really mentally tough as the positioning and tactical decisions are really intricate. You don’t lose anything from tacking so you can do it as much as you want. Racing the Cats, manoeuvres are a lot more costly because tacking is so slow and straight line speed so high. You have to be really precise in your positioning and choosing when you want to tack or gybe because if you get it wrong you can lose a lot. If it’s windier, the 470 becomes a little more like Cat sailing as manoeuvres are slow compared to straight line speed.
It really makes me so proud that Wales is hosting so many sailing events - with the Volvo Ocean Race stopover this year and the Extreme Sailing Series returning for the seventh year. It’s just fantastic. Cardiff Bay is the perfect amphitheatre for sailing and it gives a new audience the chance to see what it’s about, as well as enabling sailing fans to get super close to the action. Sailing is the sport I love and so the fact that Cardiff can bring such high profile sailing events to the city is brilliant.
I’ll be supporting Team Wales this weekend! They are the new kids on the block so to speak, having been put together for this event only as a wildcard team. It will be really challenging for them to try and gel quickly as a crew. It’s also a great opportunity for more Welsh sailors to get the opportunity to sail these incredible boats!
If you’re out in Cardiff this bank holiday weekend, head down to Cardiff Bay to watch the racing. The Flying Phantoms race from 10:00 until 13:00, with the GC32s racing from 14:00. There’s also a free-to-enter public race village with lots to do for all the family.