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Trading the turf for the tide: Sam Warburton on Extreme Sailing Series™

  • 28th July 2014
Trading the turf for the tide: Sam Warburton on Extreme Sailing Series™

There isn’t much that fazes the 25-year-old Welsh rugby icon. Born to one day lead his nation, he likes nothing better than a new challenge. So, when Land Rover invited him down to Cardiff Bay to take a ‘test drive’ in one of the high-speed entries in the 2013 Extreme Sailing Series™ in the heart of the Welsh capital, the answer was an immediate ‘yes’.

The details may be a bit sketchy, but you can tell from the fire in his eyes that the Wales and British & Irish Lions rugby captain Sam Warburton warmed to his debut in the Extreme Sailing Series. It was one of those different days out that left an indelible mark, and left him full of admiration and respect for the sportsmen and women who travel the world circuit in pursuit of winning the Series.

I’d never been sailing before and it sounded like a bit of fun. And, after all, it was only a couple of miles from my doorstep,” said Sam, recalling his sailing debut at the Cardiff Harbour Festival.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I was immediately impressed by the size of the vessel. Even now I’m not sure what I should call it – all I can remember is that it had a huge mast, two hulls and I sat in the middle and held on for my life!

I spent three hours on board going around Cardiff Bay at increasingly higher speeds.  Then the one side of the catamaran lifted up and all I could see was the water getting further and further away from me. It was pretty cool!

It was a brand new sporting experience for me and one I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed. It took four or five people to control everything and they really had to work hard, and as a team, to get the best out of the vessel. I could see that there as a lot of core strength and fitness involved in everything they did and that shocked me.

“They certainly earned my respect and made me think of sailing and sailors (or should that be yachtsmen and women) in a different light. Now, when I see sailing on the TV, I might stop and take a look

“Everyone in the UK, and around the sporting world for that matter, knows about the great achievements in sailing of Sir Ben Ainslie and I certainly came away from my short stint with even greater admiration and respect for his sport.”

Sam’s sea legs didn’t wobble too much when he finally reached dry land again, but he admits to being very much more at home on terra-firma than out on the water. That said, you might well find him among the crowds in Cardiff Bay this year taking a peak at the action.

“I think it’s great that Cardiff has been able to get onto the Extreme Sailing Series because it offers world class action and great entertainment. And I’m told, although I missed out last time, that there is a pretty good post-race party!” added Sam.

“There is no other way to describe the look and feel of the event than ‘incredible’. The vessels look massive, the speeds they reach are impressive and there are plenty of thrills and spills along the way. It’s like watching a roller-coaster ride on the water!

“Whenever I fly into Cardiff and we come in over the Bay my mind flicks back to the day I was out there on that amazing vessel. And the other thing that always impresses not only me, but all my team mates, is the range of world class sporting facilities Cardiff has to offer.

“The Millennium Stadium has been there for 15 years, Cardiff City Stadium and the Cardiff International Stadium (athletics) are five years old and the 50 metre swimming pool is about the same age. Then you’ve got the Swalec Stadium, where we all hope England will beat Australia in next year’s Ashes Test, our own BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park and, of course, the new white water canoe centre.

“The new ice house for the Cardiff Devils is currently under construction on the waters-edge at the Bay and there are loads of other great facilities for sportsmen and women of all ages to use. I’m not sure any other city in Europe can boast what we’ve got in Cardiff.”

Those facilities have helped to nurture some of the world’s greatest sportsmen and women in recent years – Sam himself; the world’s most expensive footballer and Champion’s League winner, Gareth Bale; double Olympic gold medal winning track cyclist Geraint Thomas; world champion and record holding track cyclist, Elinor Barker, and rising athletics star David Omoregie.

And now, the Extreme Sailing Series in Cardiff Bay is helping to create a legacy to inspire a new wave of sporting heroes from the Welsh capital; men or women who hope to one day become professional sailors, and maybe even sail away with Olympic glory.

If that happens, Sam Warburton will be the first to rise and pay his respects. After all, he now knows what it takes to make it on the water!

The Extreme 40 fleet will return to the Welsh capital, Cardiff, as the centrepiece to the Cardiff Harbour Festival where they will race on Europe’s largest waterfront development over the UK August bank holiday weekend. Racing in the heart of Cardiff Bay in the circuit’s action packed Stadium Railing format, in 2013 in excess of 120,000 people crammed around the bay to enjoy the excellent spectators views of the racecourse from the waterfront public Race Village.

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