Ahh - the wind in my hair and the salt water splashing my face. So what if it's only Rachael with a hairdryer and a plant spray? Hoist the mizzen, splice the mainbrace and turn up Rod Stewart on the stereo because (altogether now), 'we are sailing'.
As a confirmed landlubber who gets queasy on the park boating pond, I'm not even sure how to respond when someone says, 'Hello, sailor.' and the instructions with this simulation don't do much to help. It's not really enough to tell an America's Cup competitor, 'You'll just have to experiment with different designs in different conditions.' No wonder we didn't win!
Sailing is just part of winning. First you have to come up with a craft to thrash your competitors. Take note of the weekly weather forecast, which scrolls along the bottom of the screen. My advice for nautical novices is to start playing on the simplest level and don't alter the ship design much at first.
Do take advantage of the facility which lets you sneak a look at the plans of your league table neighbours though. Only then will you be able to tell whether those nobby bits on the keel, known as wings to the old salts, will really help manoeuvrability, or just slow you down. Is it worth having a longer keel and bigger sails, or would a shorter waterline suit? Unluckily outboard motors are not an option.
Once you've checked out the day's conditions it's out onto the briny and you're heading for the first buoy. Inevitably Rachael said she always heads for the first boy so I made her walk the plank, ignoring her cries of, "Gormless tottie overboard!"
Raising the spinnaker, the big sail, is cleverly simulated by moving your joystick round and round, just as if you were winding it out. But don't be seduced by this effect. Unless you've got the wind right behind you, you could find your yacht becomes unsteerable and you shoot helplessly out of bounds.
The key is to use the instruments, which give you rather more information than a real-life Francis Chichester, to make the most of the breeze. The triangular course may look simple, but at least some of the time you'll be sailing into the wind, which calls for some clever zig-zagging, or tacking.
After five days of racing you have a chance to study the next week's weather forecast and make alterations to your ship accordingly. Then it's on and up the league table until you too are ready to compete with the Aussies and Yanks.
This is quite a clever simulation - there's nothing else like it that I can think of - but the instructions don't do enough to demystify the topic for absolute beginners, which could put a lot of people off. The radar is also too small, which makes accurate manoeuvres a trifle difficult. While the boat design section is very detailed, I'm not sure there's enough to the actual sailing. It's a program with limited appeal, but if the topic interests you, it should give you hours of pleasure.
The view from the pointed end! Not that there's much to see at sea, unless the other yacht's ahead or you're nearing a buoy. Still, you could get quite sea-sick watching the rise and fall of the horizon.
Your yacht is a flashing cursor on the radar, and the next buoy also flashes as you aim for its right hand side. More detail would have helped raise the tension as you race for the wind on the final leg.This is your heading and speedometer - a luxury denied to real sailors. Aim for a course that maintains the maximum knots possible by taking advantage of the wind.This indicates the absolute wind speed and the direction of that force nine gale on your sails. Keep a close watch if you're to make the most of the wind.