North Sails LOFT NEWS
Story Contributors: Kevin Wiersma
Improving Your Laser Sailing During Off-Season To Better Your Results
Laser sailing is one of the most physically demanding boats in the dinghy world. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a high performing international competitor, fitness is one of the most important things you can invest in for many reasons.
Improving your level of fitness can impact your speed and boat handling in a laser. Sailing a one design boat means that many variables are relatively the same across the fleet. So, in general everyone across the fleet should be theoretically going the same speed. However, we all know this isn’t exactly the case but if you were to remove a lot of these variables what’s left is the sailor. Any laser sailor knows the harder you hike the faster you will go, having a higher level of fitness can greatly impact your ability to hike harder and go faster.
Improving fitness can help reduce chances of injury. Whether you are just joining the class or have been in the class for multiple years injuries are something any athlete in any discipline will endure throughout your career. Strength training to build muscle and endurance can greatly impact your hiking position and how efficient you are in your movements on the downwind legs. Laser sailors don’t just need strong legs for proper hiking, having a strong core and lower back are important things to also focus on as these muscles are used to support your body while hiking upwind. Notice how the word “proper” is used here, a hiking position should be almost straight legs with your upper body extending outwards away from the boat with shoulders being pressed down towards the water. This is why a strong core and lower back are vital to support having your body extending out of the boat. Putting your body into a hiking position isn’t the best thing for your joints and over time laser sailors can experience ankle, lower back, knee and hip problems. Ensuring your strength is developed will mean your muscles can do a better job at supporting these joints by taking pressure off your joints and allowing your muscles to support.
As Canadians we have a small window to train and build tiller time throughout the year. That said, having a higher level of fitness can ensure you maximise the time in this window. We love being Canadian but as sailors we hate the short season. If you’re serious about your laser sailing maximizing your time during the spring, summer and fall months is very important. During the winter off-season working on conditioning to have the goal of being fit for spring will mean you will spend less time “brushing the cob webs off” when you first step back in the boat.
Enjoy the boat across all levels. Lastly one of the most important reasons which applies to everyone is overall enjoyment of sailing the laser. This doesn’t mean that the fitter you are the more you will enjoy the boat but it will help. The laser can be a tricky boat to sail and many laser sailors find building confidence especially in windy conditions very difficult. High levels of fitness can help build confidence knowing that you are fit and prepared will make any session more enjoyable. Many times sailors will attribute a bad day or bad training session to getting exhausted too soon.
Here are some areas to focus on when looking into conditioning:
The best way to build strength for laser sailing is to sail more in hiking conditions. However, this may not be attainable to all laser sailors. Short seasons and predominantly light conditions hinder sailors from gaining experience and fitness in hiking conditions. Strength training can be different for everyone as not everyone has access to a trainer or gym. Focusing on finding ways to incorporate weight resistance training to build strength by either using free weights, dumbbells, barbells and resistance machines are great. There is no shortage of prepared training programs online that you can do at home or in a gym that will work, the importance is to find what is best for you and to focus on form during workouts to better maximize the workout and to prevent injury. If you are serious about laser sailing the best thing is to talk to a trainer to design a fitness plan thats best for you. Most trainers will try to understand the physical requirements of laser sailing before designing you a plan but if you can find a trainer that know sailing thats even better.
Aerobic training is defined as any activity that is cardio in nature but performed in intervals or short but high intensity sessions. Simple examples that you can incorporate into your offseason conditioning could be running sessions on a treadmill or outside keeping a high pace for short defined intervals. During the offseason many laser sailors turn to the rowing machine for aerobic training. Although these are different sports the rowing machine engages your whole body while at the same time focusing on your cardiovascular ability to keep you body moving. A strong aerobic ability is good for short but high intensity activities things like tacking, mark rounding’s, accelerations and holding lanes in windy conditions.
This is pretty simple, incorporating long cardio sessions at least 1-2 times a week will improve endurance. These sessions can be anywhere from 30min or longer. Choosing something you enjoy doing will make these sessions much more enjoyable, going for a long run mixed with some walking or taking up cycling are great for endurance training.
Cross training can be anything that will get your heart pumping and get you moving. This can be fun part about your off season conditioning. Taking up another activity that you enjoy doing like tennis, basketball, cycling or swimming are just some examples of cross training. Many Laser sailors take up other sports to satisfy their cross training which is great for your conditioning but also for mental health. Changing things up and taking your mind away from the boat will make you wanna jump back in.