Offshore racing

Maxi-multihulls - Behind the scenes of top-level physical and mental preparation

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Endurance, lucidity, injury prevention, mental work, nutrition, recovery... the list of topics is long for those who are interested in the performance of men and women facing extreme challenges. Whether it’s climbing the mast, shifting ballast, winching on a grinder, or performing grueling maneuvers in the Doldrums or in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean, prior physical and mental preparation is essential. Especially when sailing on the largest ocean racing trimaran in the world, the maxi Sails of Change skippered by Yann Guichard. This 130 by 75-foot (40 x 23-meter) multihull is equipped with a 4,360-square foot (405 m²) mainsail and its big gennaker measures 6,030 sq ft (560 m²). It’s difficult to imagine the physical and mental constraints that the crew will have to face when attempting to beat the round-the-world record of under 40 days. Vertiginous speeds, extreme conditions, potentially Dantesque sea conditions, little sleep and an omnipresent risk when one’s guard is down. This is just a foretaste of the atmosphere on board...
An Olympic snowboarding coach, ski and sailing instructor, Fanch started his collaboration with the maxi-multihull team Sails of Change about ten years ago. The objective is indeed ambitious and long term: first of all, to build the team and then to make it work hard enough to become efficient. From La Trinité-sur-Mer (in western France), François organizes sessions twice a week to ensure a regular follow-up of the team of sailors.
When we talk about physical preparation in ocean racing, we often think of the so different and yet so similar French skippers Eric Tabarly and Bernard Moitessier. Two legendary sailors who had a very thorough idea of physical and mental preparation... Waking up every two hours at night and sawing wood at night for the athletic naval officer Tabarly. Meditation and daily yoga sessions for the spiritual Moitessier. This is perhaps a very short and caricatural summary of their respective preparations, but both of these illustrious sailors have contributed, with their different approaches, to the preparation for what is today’s high-level sailing. Physical and mental preparation are essential to competitiveness. They are now part of the pursuit of performance.
Multihulls World: What is your approach to ocean racing?
Fanch: You need athletes who are fairly complete in terms of their physical qualities, as the effort is multidirectional, whether it’s climbing the mast, shifting ballast or winching. In the case of the Jules Verne Trophy, it’s a long event. There is no equivalent in other sports. Endurance is paramount. Even if these men and women are tough, you have to be able to take the effort and the variations in intensity. This is why regular practice is done all year round on a twice-weekly basis. A session includes classic cardio training such as running, rowing and cycling, followed by cardiovascular training according to the sailors’ affinities. What I call cardio leisure, ...

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