Sailing fitness is often overlooked but it is one of the weapons that we can achieve with minimum cost and a little effort. A new sail or a new piece of gear has a finite life but fitness is something that has benefits both on and off the boat forever as long as you have a regime to maintain it.
In an off the beach boat, are you able to hike or trapeze longer and harder than your competition? Can you pump your sails hard downwind (as allowed) for the whole leg? If you can do either more than your fellow competitor, chances are you will be able to beat them.
When sailing in a regatta, the competitor who sails their boat as hard at the end of each race on each day of the event as they did at the start of the event will be more likely to be fighting for the silverware.
In a multiple race day or event, your body must be able to recover and 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 important to have enough endurance for a several day regatta. Endurance can be gained by cycling because you get very strong legs which is good for both hiking and trapezing. Swimming trains your upper body but rowing is a good alternative if you don’t like being in the water.
For flexibility, yoga is great and it also helps you to come down after a stressful day – no matter whether it is on the water or in the office.
For strength, weight training is hard to beat but make sure that you get advice from a professional who understands sailing. They will provide a routine that builds the right muscles for the activities that your class or boat requires.
Proper nutrition is another key to performance as it helps with energy, recovery, injury avoidance and repair, attitude and decision-making.
Make sure that you eat things that give you power for the next day, help your body recover and also stay away from foods you don’t know. Work out what is the best food for you to take on the water by testing various things during training. Some sailors prefer energy bars, others go with fruit like bananas.
Lastly, hydration is equally important to maintain performance capability. It is said that once you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated so take every opportunity to have a drink. Water is more than adequate but many sailors use electrolytes or energy drinks.
Some of the consequences of a lack of fluids are mental tiredness, concentration decreases and co-ordination ability decreases. The cardiovascular and central nervous systems are affected which causes an increased pulse rate, lower blood pressure and loss of muscle strength.