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Preparing YOU for the season - start now!

14 September 2010 Andrew Verdon

Hands on sheets - Fathom

"Hands on sheets - Fathom"

Photo by:
Kylie Wilson,

Prepare for the season - start now!

The summer sailing season is almost on us. So time to get the boat, body and brain prepared for another summer of racing. No matter whether you are in a keelboat, trailerable, dinghy or sailboard, preparation will certainly help your results and make the racing a little easier on you physically.

The good news is that a little amount of physical work can make a big impact. As noted sailing physiotherapist, Sue Crafer, has said in her articles, "a very small investment in TES (time, effort and spend [dollars]), gives you a large benefit in performance out on the water."

There are three areas you need to work on in your physical preparation. Together these are known as the fitness triangle.


It is very easy to remember by the three S's - Stamina, Suppleness and Strength. Let's have a closer look at each.

Stamina (also known as cardio fitness).

This is the capacity of the heart, blood vessels, lungs and muscles (the cardio vascular system) to function at the required levels. So good stamina of fitness, means the body has the ability to function both effectively and efficiently. Basically any exercise that raises the heart rate for a prolonged period of time (greater than 15 minutes) will achieve this. Why is this important for sailing?

  • It allows you to work at the level you need to during each race and over successive days, without fatiguing too much
  • Good fitness generally means good health, due to a strengthened immune system
  • The better your fitness, the better your mental functioning will be. This means better ability to adapt to changing situations in the race and improved concentration
  • It also means improved recovery from a situation of hard work in a race, namely starts, bottom mark roundings or tacking duels
  • May help reduce body fat levels

Strength (and Stability)

I also like to add another 'S' here - Stability as a sort of subset. You must have stability at each joint before you start to develop strength. Strength in its most basic form is the ability of a muscle to exert force. This is generally done in sailing by pushing or pulling an object. It is normally trained by resistance training. Why is this important for sailing?

  • A strong joint is less likely to be injured
  • Strength helps on windy days as loads increase
  • It helps to keep you performing over multiple race days, by not tiring as rapidly
  • Increases muscle mass and may help reduce body fat levels
  • Improves body awareness, balance and agility
  • Suppleness (flexibility)

Stretching is included for two reasons in a fitness program. Firstly to prepare the body for the work it is about to perform, which is generally done as part of a warm up. Secondly, it is to improve the range of movement of a joint. Why is this important for sailing?

  • Helps prepare the body for a day of sailing by increasing movement in the major muscle and joints used.
  • Helps to prevent injury. Regular stretching and good flexibility may help to keep muscles supple and moving well.
  • Helps create good posture in both every day life and for hiking/trapezing and trimming.
  • Can assist the recovery process after a hard day of sailing.

So there are lots of benefits for each the three S's - Stamina, Strength and Suppleness. A good basic program should assign about 30% of your time into each area. It's best to plan it into your life, so as to make sure it happens each week. Make sure you include some of each area over the seven days. Be consistent from now on and you will see the benefits by the time the December/January championship period arrives.

Contact Andrew

Strength for hiking - Dot

"Strength for hiking - Dot"

Photo by:
Kylie Wilson,


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