by Jon Emmett
Laser sailing is most definitely a sport. Assuming equal levels of technical skill, the fitter you are the faster you will go in medium-to-strong winds, and you definitely don’t want to be let down by your fitness.
Very broadly speaking there are three areas of fitness:
- Core (The inner muscles that support the body.)
- Strength (Think legs and arms both strong enough, with enough endurance to complete a regatta.)
- Aerobic (The ability of your heart and lungs.)
All of these can be worked on both on and off the water. A good diet and adequate rest are essential to make progress as well. In fact, many top sailors will spend longer on their “supplementary” training than they will hours on the water.
It is important to continue to train when away from home and you can have extremely effective training with very limited equipment. This is especially true with the core training. Remember, not only does a strong core protect your back from injury, but it makes your kinetic body movements to trim the boat over the waves much more effective, and therefore you a faster Laser sailor.
Training when away from home:
In recent years, cycling has been a very stable part of most Laser sailors’ fitness routines. It is a low-impact activity, which means you can do it for a long duration. It works similar muscles to hiking and it can be a lot of fun to tour all around the sailing venues. Remember many people come to Palma for example, purely for the cycling. By getting the hours in on the bikes, it increases your ability to do long hours on the water. It not only improves your ability to perform any activity that gets you out of breath, but also has a huge impact on your ability to recover from a demanding day. Something which is essential at a strong-wind regatta.
It is very important to time-table adequate rest during the day so that you have a good break between two sessions for example: cycle morning / sail afternoon, sail morning / weights afternoon, or even sail / sail so that both can be quality sessions. You also need to schedule rest days, for example 3 days on, 1 day off; 5 days on, 2 days off. Of course, this depends upon the intensity level of the day/week (the more intense the session, the more rest you need between the two sessions in the day. The more intense the days, the more rest days you need in a week). Simply training until complete fatigue is not a sensible option because illness and injury are far more likely, which would result in less training time and certainly less fitness improvement in the long term.
Gym work also helps achieve big gains in performance, especially if you need to gain weight and power, perhaps when you transition from 4.7 to Radial, or Radial to Standard rig. It is recommended that you seek the advice of a professional trainer to ensure that you lift what is appropriate for your age, fitness, and ability. Remember, good form is far more important than the exact amount you can lift, and the end goal is to be a better Laser sailor and injury-free.
Training in the gym:
Now looking at the detail of a session. A good session always starts with a warm-up whether you are sailing, lifting weights, or cycling. You shouldn’t go straight into full intensity. We are of course used to see this in other sports, and in sailing it is just as important. At the end of the session is the time to have a good stretch, to help remove waste products from your muscles and maintain or even improve flexibility. It can also be a really good opportunity to reflect on the recent training session.
Jon runs a Coach Yourself to Win page where you can find video, photos, and training tips from all the top regattas, as well as a Train to Win group where you can download NOR, Sis, Results and see FAQs on this events.