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Kit Guide

The World's Worst Sailing Selfie (and how to improvise a hiking bench)

By Sargent 2nd October 2020

Well I’ll let you be the judge of that! But desperate times drive desperate measures. In this case the desperate measures were a trip to the Middle East between February and August which drove a hole right through the middle of my sailing season. My sanity was retained by a two week break in May with some great racing and sailing with the family, and by arriving home just in time for the 2000 Nationals.

It therefore seems a good time, as we reduce sailing activity slightly for the winter and I ponder my future as an Opi parent, to reflect on what I learnt about getting and staying ‘match fit’ when denied the opportunity to actually get afloat. The absence of a boat and water meant I had to look into how to prepare for hiking. I was also based in a very hot climate and I therefore became interested in what effects extremes of heat have on exercise, including sailing. I’ll look at that a little in my next blog.

I’m setting myself some preparation goals for the winter. Setting positive targets helps to get through periods of reduced activity without negative effects, with no ‘season’ planned for 2016 I didn’t pay enough attention to my fitness in the months before going abroad. As a result my weight was up above my ‘normal’, which has always been on the high side for the Classes I sail. I’ve been about 95kg for many years, dipping to make keelboat weigh-ins to as low as 90kg. In the RS300 I’m therefore at least 5-10kg above the optimum, and in the 2000 I need to be sailing with Gwen or Johnny (who are between 30 and 37kg ) to hit a competitive weight. I’d estimate that I was about 97-98kg on departure and was also suffering from sciatica type leg pain, probably due to under activity.

Over the years I’ve read a lot about weight control (loss) techniques and diets. I’ve come to realise that it’s actually a very simple equation; if your energy output exceeds your energy input you will lose weight! The trick is to find a palatable way to eat and the decision whether to up the output or reduce the input as the first stage. Our dining facility while I was away was American - I was firmly placed in the way of temptation at every meal. This was perhaps balanced by the absence of any alcohol at all – definitely hollow calories. I gained increasing mental strength by resisting the free-flow fizzy pop, but must admit to succumbing to mango juice slush puppies. Sweet potato counts in your 5 a-day even when it’s turned into a French Fry doesn’t it? Unfortunately my efforts to increase output were limited by twisting my knee when falling over on a wet floor, and initially I had to confine myself to the cross-trainer and the bike to avoid any twist on the knee. I was able to gradually increase running and rowing, the latter having a direct crossover to sheeting technique. It also meant that I was unable to do any hiking specific exercises until 2 weeks before my return home in May.

I did however have a moment of revelation when struggling with pain in my leg and back; I remembered that ‘bridge’ exercises had eased similar back pain about 12 years ago. These exercises are also useful to sailors, since they balance the development of hiking muscles in the abdomen and thighs. I began to build them into my routine and have sustained that since my return. They form part of my post racing stretch off and do seem to help reduce back pain. During these periods I was aware of the importance of being efficient in my use of training time when things got hectic. I chose to run and cross-train whenever I could, since they gave the greatest rate of calories burned.

So why the selfie? I wasn’t in a position to fly out there with a hiking bench, but I knew it was important to maintain the ability to sit out, a point reinforced when going straight into a 2000 Open within 12 hours of my return home. Gwen and Johnny did a brilliant job trying to make up for their Daddy’s weakness! The photo below shows the hiking strap I took off the 2000 during my May break, replacing it with some fantastic Rooster Toe-Straps which give really good grip and have excellent width, to create a firm and stable platform to hike from, especially when worn with Rooster lace-up dinghy boats (I really enjoy the feel of increased ankle support with these boots). Spontaneously, I stuffed it in my kit bag on the way out of the door, and then put it to use in the Gym. Until then I had not picked up any free weights; like the diner the gym was built for Americans and it was with a slight feeling of embarrassment that I staggered around with huge dumbbells, while my US colleagues pumped themselves up with ease! Despite that, it was a simple step to assemble a weights bench, the toe-strap and enough weights and do a hiking session. And when my curious colleagues asked what I was doing and tried the bench, then it was their turn to feel embarrassment! I found that I needed 90% of body weight to hold me down (check those toe-straps and fittings regularly - you’re putting a lot of force through them!) and needed to set the weights up as shown in the photo to prevent them rolling inwards. When the right machine was available I also attached a short length of mainsheet to the pulley and added a sheet simulator too. I’ll take you through the exercise sets I use in my next blog which will look at what happens to our muscles when we hike.


My other concern was how to stay warm when I returned home from a daily 50 degrees to the high teens/low twenties of an English summer. Thankfully there was enough wind at the Nationals to keep me busy and I simply had to change up from my usual summer kit of Rooster Pro-Hikers and Rash Vest by replacing the rash vest with a Poly Pro top. So I could still sail lightly dressed and without risk of overheating, although only because I had my secret weapon and favourite piece of kit in my Buoyancy Aid pocket. I love my Rooster Neoprene Beanie - wet or dry, it’s like adding an extra layer.

And did the training work? Well I was down to 92kg on my return and I was sailing fit enough to manage 10th at a largely breezy 2000 Nationals. I still seem to be creeping the weight down, my target in that respect is to be 88kg by the first 2000 or 300 Open of 2017. I’ll let you know how I get on. Matt


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