We are sailing

People all across the globe have an ancient romance with the sea. Once our ancestors ceased to regard open water as a barrier and discovered that it was possible to float on the surface in a container, the lover’s dance began. As people got more and more skilled at making boats the challenge was no longer merely crossing the waters and exploring, but mastering both speed and distance. And so the concept of sailing as a sport was born.

Sailing debuted as an Olympic sport in 1900 and has appeared at every Olympic Games since 1908. Despite the steep learning curve necessary to participate in sailing, it is one of the world’s most popular sports. Once the preserve of the very wealthy, modern building techniques and cheaper materials have made sailing more accessible by reducing the cost of acquiring a vessel. Indeed, you don’t even have to own your own boat to participate. You can simply become a member of a sailing club to have lessons from a professional expert or even join the crew of someone else’s sailboat.

The sport of sailing has been described as “Formula 1 on water” by Sir Ben Ainsline, Olympic champion and former member of the Oracle team USA, that won the America’s Cup (the team is the current holder too). The America’s Cup is the best-known and fiercely contended competition in sailing, which pits the world’s best sailing teams against each other.

One of the most appealing features of sailing is the sheer variety of sailboats. There are 5 main types of sailing boats, which can be piloted solo or as part of a team. The most common is a Sloop. It has a single mast and is rigged with a jib (the sail at the bow/front of the boat), and a mainsail attached to the back of the mast. If you were asked to draw a sailboat, you would most likely draw one of these, perhaps without even realising that it was a Sloop!

Another popular boat is the Catboat, which is easily operated by one or two people. It has a mast located near the front of the boat with a single sail. Cutters have a single mast with two sails in the front and a mainsail on the back of the mast. These boats are designed for small crews and are relatively easy to handle.

The Ketch, unlike the previous 3 boats, has two masts. The second mast, or mizzenmast, is shorter than the mainmast and is in front of the rudder. Another sailboat with two masts is the Yawl. However Yawls differ from Ketches in that their mizzenmast is behind the rudder. This is because the mizzen on a yawl is for keeping balance, rather than forward propulsion.

Finally there are the Schooners. These are large sailboats with two or more masts. The masts are of equal or greater height, with the highest ones located at the back of the ship.

Sailing as a fitness activity is a total body experience. Requiring both physical and mental stamina (being able to consistently think, behave and perform optimally in a pressure environment). Aerobic fitness is required to be able to keep up with physical demands, for example trimming sails, hauling ropes, holding the tiller against the waves and even being able to walk about on the boat against the wind and the waves. Having a fitter and more efficient heart, lungs, muscles and circulatory system means that you will find the demands of sailing less strenuous. Sailing puts more emphasis on the arms and upper body, for example for trimming the sails or raising the anchor. Therefore, upper body endurance and cardio exercises are an ideal way to improve your sailing abilities. The Excite+ Top can be used for upper body rotary training to increase fitness, improve muscular strength, endurance and the shape of the upper body. Team Oracle use the Excite+ range to train when they are not sailing.

Muscle strength, endurance and muscle power are also important for sailing fitness because the stronger you are the more force you can apply, which will make tasks that involve battling against the wind’s resistance far easier. Muscular power is the explosiveness of the muscle to generate a high force quickly. Power is a combination of speed and strength so if one of those two attributes improves then so will muscular power.

If you are new to strength training you can begin with exercises that use the body’s own weight as resistance, for example press ups or tricep dips. As you become stronger you can progress to using other forms of resistance such as that provided by the resistance bands in the Technogym Wellness Bag or Unica.

For those with no sailing experience at all, the best way to start is to find a local sailing club. Many sailing clubs have open days to give new comers the opportunity to try sailing with experienced club members or instructors.