Sailing Fitness is as easy to describe as fitness for runners – are you doing marathons or are you a sprinter? Both appear very different. The one has very lean muscles whereas the other one is quite muscle-bound. You find a similar situation when sailing. Do you have to hike hard? Are you on the wire for most of the time? Are you allowed to pump the sails as hard as possible downwind like in a Finn or Contender? Depending on the class you sail in you have to decide which fitness programme suits you best.
There is also a huge difference if you sail in light winds or in a strong breeze with big waves. Nevertheless it is always a big advantage to have some extra power on a long day in a 5-day-championship-series. Quick recovery from sailing 3 races on a strong wind day pays off on the long run. I have experienced this in the past. It can be very frustrating if you have performed excellent the day before to defend the top of the leader board but you struggle the next day because you can’t concentrate as your body hasn’t been able to fully recover. Being very fit is also something that you can easily reach by putting in enough training time. Often half an hour a day is enough to be as fit as the other top guys in an amateur class.
As most sailboat races are not decided on one day or in one race it is quite important to have enough endurance for a several day regatta. Many like cycling because you get very strong legs which is good for both hiking an trapezing. I really love swimming as it also trains your upper body. Rowing is a good alternative if you don’t like being in the water.
Flexibility actually gave me the biggest jump in my body’s performance. Since I set a focus on this my body recovers much quicker and I also suffer less injury. Yoga is just perfect and it also helps you to come down after a stressful day – no matter if on the water or in the office.
“Eating iron” is great when you need to put on weight. Also for sudden movements when you need heaps of power for a small period (i.e. going around the bottom mark and pulling in the main) of time can buy you some places on the race course. Just make sure that you add enough endurance training and do not neglect flexibility.
Especially on modern skiffs agility is very important as you “run” around the boat. Cross Fitness is a great concept.
Proper nutrition is a key to performance. It helps with energy, recovery, injury avoidance and repair, attitude and decision-making. I once had a cheese fondue during a major competition. This was one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made in a regatta. The next day I was not only lacking power but also concentration. My results were bad that day and I dropped from first to fourth and was out of contention for the title. Make sure that you eat things that give you power for the next day, help your body recover and also stay away from food you don’t know. I also love to taste new meals and try different things. But after having trained hard for a couple of months for your major competition it would be careless to do this within those few days the event is running. Also test what is the best food for you to take on the water. Some prefer energy bars, others go with fruit like bananas.