IT IS the Formula 1 of sailing that has the crowds gripped at Cowes.

This high-speed, action-packed sport is not for the faint hearted as the fast and the furious battle it out to be crowned champions.

The Extreme 40s series is proving a hit with spectators at the island’s sailing extravaganza, drawing thousands to the coastline at Egypt Point to catch a glimpse of the high octane action.

With nine teams competing, without steering or brakes, at speeds normally reserved for powerboats, this sport has the potential for spectacular crashes, capsizes and hair-raising near misses.

Danger The crew of Groupama 40 decided they preferred getting wet to risking injury as their Extreme 40 lost both its rudders and headed straight for the sea wall.

But, despite the danger, the sport offers a unique opportunity to become a part of the action, offering a VIP guest to be the fifth man and jump on board with the four professionals for a ride of a lifetime.

While a chosen few get the chance to ride the waves in the hot seat, those on shore are not left behind, with all the action brought inshore.

Every morning the teams take part in a long distance race, lasting up to one hour, while in the afternoon the action comes to the coastline for the short courses, racing from one buoy to another in a ten minute frenzy of sailing action.

Cowes Week forms part of the European series for the Extreme 40s, 40ft long carbon speed machines, skippered by some of the most respected sailors in the field.

This year sees the debut of the Red Bull Team at Cowes, led by double Olympic gold medallist in the tornado class, Roman Hagara.

He told the Daily Echo: “It is very different here at Cowes to all the places and as is our first time here and we are not really used to the tides.

“A lot of things are happening with the tides, which is making things a little bit tricky but it is a nice place to sail.

“Having the crowds so close is great because as we come across the shore at the start we can hear them cheering. This is very new for our sport but we like it and we have the same feeling as a soccer player now.

“It is a very exciting sport and lives up to its extreme name. We have had some ups and downs so far, winning races and coming last so we just have to look forward to the next race and ensure we get better starts.”