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What it takes to be an Extreme 40 mainsail trimmer

Ranked second in the World in the 49er class in 2013, winning the same class at the Sail for Gold regatta in 2014 and joining the Extreme Sailing Series™ fray in 2015, British sailor and Olympic hopeful Ed Powys, 27, is building quite a portfolio for himself as the clock ticks down to Rio 2016. A newbie onboard Oman Air for 2015, along with fellow Brits Nic Asher and Stevie Morrison, the young team are currently making waves in the fleet, sitting fifth overall after three Acts.

We caught up with mainsail trimmer, Powys, on what it takes to compete on the Extreme Sailing Series, what he does for fun and more importantly how lazy skipper Stevie Morrison really is!

With Extreme Sailing Series Acts often involving 30 or so races over just four days, it is a gruelling test of a sailors stamina and attitude, as leaderboard positions can change as quickly as the wind shifts. The key, Powys says, is routine, to ensure you have the right mind-set and physical condition to cope with the intense race mode.

Powys starts his day at 8am. “I will sort my kit and have a big brekkie - pretty vital for a days racing. My breakfast usually consists of fruit, yoghurt, muesli, eggs and toast. I’ll go to the gym and do a light warm up before meeting the boys for a coffee on the way to the boat.

“At the dock we prepare the boat for the day but our mighty shore crew have done all the hard work and whilst getting changed I’ll grab lunch.

Boat prepped, it’s time to head out to the racecourse. With a typical days racing lasting from 1400-1700, often with eight races per day, the action is jam-packed, As mainsail trimmer, Powys has a demanding job on-board: “It’s incredibly physical, there is significant load running through the sheets all the time and if your timing on the manoeuvres is out then it is a real struggle to trim the sails,” he explains. “In addition to this you are constantly moving and crossing the boat, and running on the trampoline all day which is exhausting. It is important to be in good shape both physically and mentally.

By the time the race finishes we only have a couple of minutes to refuel on energy bars and pre-made energy drinks, discuss any changes, and make a plan for the next race. We are usually sailing in venues with very challenging wind conditions and this makes deciding on the route around the racecourse and the trim for the sails very hard.”

The roles onboard the Extreme 40 vary hugely, and like Powys bowman Ali Al Balashi has a very physical job. “Ali has it pretty tough, he has to be strong as bowman and because outside of the Series he does a lot of offshore sailing. In contrast, our helmsman Stevie does far less heavy work on the boat but makes up for it because he is fast with a very light touch. He also steers a 49er which he tells us requires much the same skills and makes him very balanced, which helps him to steer accurately during racing. We are unconvinced, but he assures us all of this is true!”


“After racing we debrief and have dinner, which normally involves mocking Ted (Oman Air’s Aussie headsail trimmer) for a good 45 minutes, which puts us in a great mood for a restful nights sleep!” Powys jokes.

The life of a professional sailor can be relentless, with events often running back to back. On the odd occasion when Powys gets a week at home in Cornwall (UK), you can still find him out on the water. “I like to surf, which is actually pretty hard work as I think it gives you a good base aerobic fitness - most of the time you’re enjoying yourself so you don’t feel like you’re training, which is much more fun than sitting on an exercise bike!”

Catch Ed and the rest of the sailors hard at work in Cardiff for Act 4 of the Extreme Sailing Series, presented by Land Rover from 19-21 June 2015.

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