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Shake off the winter blues, spring is just around the corner

1 September 2009 Tracey Johnstone

Mark Bulka competing in the 2009 nationals where he finished third

"Mark Bulka competing in the 2009 nationals where he finished third"

Photo by:
Steve Hall

With spring just around the corner it is time to look at not only your competition program, but also the physical preparation that will see you safely through another season of intense Etchells racing.

Sports Physician and Sports Medicine Australia spokesperson Dr Bolzonello recommends a gradual approach to your preparation. "As summer approaches, many people who have been in hibernation all winter come out to exercise, and more often than not they want to see results and they want to see them fast. It is for this reason that they push themselves to the limit.

"By pushing themselves too hard too fast injuries are more likely to occur. All those who are active should start slowly and build up gradually. This will still generate desired results without the pain and inconvenience of an injury." (, September 2008)

Former national champion and regular Etchells sailor Victorian Mark Bulka is well aware of the physical demands of competitive sailing. He is already focusing on the type of busy Etchells racing season which would take a toll on anyone who wasn't already working on their fitness and general well-being.

During the winter Bulka sold his Etchells and has a new Pacesetter coming out of the shed very soon. He hopes to have the boat ready for the Lake Macquarie Spring Regatta in October with the long term goal of the 2010 World Championship in Dublin.

In the meantime he has continued to keep himself fit after borrowing a local Mornington boat. But with so much wind on the Bay during the winter, his passion has been for sailboard wave jumping. In the next month he will back into his racing program with a Laser regatta in early September "just for a bit of fun" before hoping back on board his old Etchells for the start of the local fleet's Etchells spring season.

Bulka has crossed the classes many times over the years to race in the physically tough Finn and Laser classes. He is well versed on what is needed to prepare for a full spring and summer of racing. "You don't need to be super human to sail Etchells at the front of the fleet, not like a Laser or Finn where fitness is paramount. Given that, it is not so hard to have the odd good race in the Etchells class.

"A fit body and mind has to be a key consideration from a skipper/tactician point of view. I like to come in from each knowing that my process was 100 percent. You can't always go the right way, though if you do everything else right, a good result will nearly always come.

"There are thousands of things to consider and this can only be done with a fit mind. I find the fitter I am, the better my decision making is. So for me, it is bike riding, sail boarding and Laser sailing.

"For the other guys I like a team that has its own intensity and energy. If you are pushing everyone to get things done and having to keep giving them pep talks, then my time is not being spent doing what it needs to be doing.

"My forward hand and one of my closest friends, Steve, is a builder. So his days are often spent on the tools giving him a good level of natural fitness. However, he often has good holiday on his boat and I always notice a sluggishness in his sailing after one of those holidays.

"So to make sure there is energy on the boat I encourage Steve to join in some midweek Laser sailing. Prior to regattas we also run our own boot camps at a local park or beach.

"I think a strong forward hand, who can pump the brace one-handed in above 15 knots, is a big plus for the performance of a boat. Steve, with his job, is working on his strength all the time.

ńs far as nutrition is goes, we just eat healthy and have plenty of food and drinks on the boat. I like to stay away from fizzy drinks just to prevent the mind from making a decision for no good reason. Remember, sometimes the best decision you make is not making one.

"You need to understand your body and what makes you feel good under stress. Fit body + Fit mind = Balanced Sailing."


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