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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 November 2005, 09:17 GMT
Curse of the seas
By Rob Hodgetts

Gordon Ramsay
Gordon Ramsay has got another addiction besides swearing - the infamous chef is a closet sailor.

Racing yachts are notorious breeding grounds for world-class effers and blinders, which is perhaps why Ramsay feels so at home.

"It's hand in glove - the camaraderie, that kind of team spirit, that kind of pressure," Ramsay told BBC Sport.

"I can't think of a better synergy than the kitchen and the set-up on a boat."

He added: "When people shout it's not personal, it doesn't mean they hate each other's guts. It's a high-energy, ultra-competitive environment and there's a lot at stake."

My biggest problem is being a control freak
Gordon Ramsay

Ramsay, 38, is working on team ABN AMRO's in-port food and helping to improve the notoriously bland freeze-dried meals the sailors will exist on at sea in the upcoming Volvo Ocean round-the world race.

And he joined the crew for the first in-port race of the 2005-6 event in Spain on Saturday.

But despite an impressive sailing CV of his own, Ramsay managed to muzzle his usual forthright opinions and defer to experienced Kiwi skipper Mike Sanderson.

"My biggest problem is being a control freak, which of course I couldn't be this time," said Ramsay, who joined the professional crew as a non-sailing guest.

"I got told off early on for not moving fast enough, which is just a lack of experience. But I'm a good learner. I don't need to be told something five times for it to finally sink in.

"And I've got total respect for their professional integrity.

It was packed with emotion, highly competitive and a big adrenaline rush
Gordon Ramsay

"It's like Mike coming into the kitchen at Claridge's and telling me the ravioli lobster isn't up to scratch and the pasta should be a bit thinner. So I just kept quiet and listened and learned."

Ramsay's boat came sixth out of seven, though the team claim its design is more suited to the windier conditions on the ocean legs of the race.

But despite the result, Ramsay was fired up by the experience.

"I loved every minute of it. It's infectious and I've got the bug," he said. "It was packed with emotion, highly competitive and a big adrenaline rush.

Team ABN AMRO (left), Spain's Movistar (centre) and Brasil 1
Team ABN AMRO (left) approach a mark in the Volvo Ocean Race

"The level of expertise, the attention to detail and the synchronicity of the crew is extraordinary. It's a joy to watch.

"It's just like running a brigade of chefs - everyone has to trust everyone else to do their job."

Ramsay's sailing credentials extend to two Atlantic crossings on a 60ft maxi and a season in the Caribbean cooking on Australian media mogul Reg Grundy's boat.

"In my down time if I wasn't diving, I was sailing everything from Hobie cats to 40ft yachts," he said.

"I've always been into it and for me it's the perfect release."

Ramsay insisted that sailing is not the niche, elitist sport it might seem, likening the expense - other than actually owning a boat - to following a football team around the country or on a European campaign.

The crew are incredibly talented and these guys are athletes, not yachties
Gordon Ramsay

And he stressed that the Volvo race that Sanderson and his crew are preparing for is a far cry from the gin-swilling toff image of the sport.

"It's hardcore, there's no two ways about it," said the former Rangers professional.

"The crew are incredibly talented and these guys are athletes, not yachties.

"Everything is glamorous on the dockside but five hours into the race you will start to see a completely different ball game take over.

"It's nothing to do with the corporates or a posh lunch. It's all about graft, understanding, team spirit and bonding with one another. And you need to be prepared for everything and anything."

Ramsay's schedule prevents him from joining the team for the first leg to Cape Town, not that he has been invited, but he reckoned he would jump at the chance to do an ocean leg.

And was in no doubt he could hack the sleep deprivation, cold, wet and fear.

"Are you trying to wind me up? Do you think I haven't got that level of determination?"

Cayard to lead Volvo race entry
02 Aug 05 |  Sailing
McDonald to skipper Volvo entry
18 May 05 |  Sailing
Volvo Race to start in Spain
12 Nov 03 |  Other Sport...

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