I’m standing on the dock, with the wind in my hair, and everyone asks: “Who’s with Ben?”
I don’t know who Ben is, never mind who is with him.
All I know is that I’ve been given a guest spot sixth man of a five-man team on the JP Morgan boat in the second race of the Extreme Sailing Series.
Little do I know that Ben is in fact Sir Ben Ainslie, multi-gold and silver medallist, the most successful Olympic sailor of all time. And I am the one who is with him.
But do I recognise him? No. Oops. His crew members are no strangers to the winners’ podium either. They probably have enough medals to sink the boat.
But I’m just excited to be back on a boat. Having been an avid sailor in my youth, being on a state-of-the-art catamaran like the extreme40 is a dream gig.
I am greeted on board by British sailor Paul Goodison.
“See the blonde chick over there? We flew her in specially to take care of you,” he says, pointing to the crew’s lone woman.
I get that he’s joking, but it’s only later that I realise the blonde is Pippa Wilson, Youth World Champion and Olympic gold winner. Oops again.
She explains how this amateur will work with such an experienced crew.
“Mind your head, stay low and stay in the coloured spots on the net,” Wilson tells me.
So, sit tight and stay out the way. With that, the crew burst into action. I can see why they want the sixth man to keep out of the way.
Everyone moves at a fast pace, darting across the central net, winding winches and pulling ropes. Their hands are proof of the damage that rough work and seawater can do to the skin.
Ropes are rolled, sails checked and hoisted in preparation to catch the wind as we head to the starting line.
A buzzer sounds, and we dart off.
The crew does not stop moving. And I break the rules by moving from my spot to take pictures. I’m not moving enough for Sir Ben.
The craft tilts on one side – a common occurrence if the sail catches too much wind. To balance out the boat, the crew rush to the raised hull.
“You have to start moving!” Sir Ben bellows at me from on high.
Trying to continue snapping shots, I’m not fully aware of who exactly is shouting at me.
So I snap back: “Then you have to tell me where to move!”
Oops number three.
Yes, I told off a knight of the realm. But no grudges are held.
The rest of my time onboard is less eventful.
The crew manage to work their magic around me. They eventually place third for the day and I’m thankful that I’ve not proved to be a total jinx.
The article related to these pictures was first published in The New Paper on Sunday on February 23 2014.