Wednesday, March 04, 2009

It's the Fitness Stupid

As it says over there >>> in the sidebar, one of the recurrent themes of this blog is my delusion that I am not yet too old to discover how to sail smarter and faster. At various times I have deluded myself into thinking that I would be a better Laser sailor if I...
All to no avail. I'm just as mediocre a racing sailor as I was when I started writing this blog four years ago... or for that matter as I was twenty years ago.

It's time to finally face the truth. The real reason why I am not as good at Lasering as I would like to be: it's the fitness, stupid. Laser sailing demands strength and stamina and flexibility and agility and I don't have enough of any of the above.

Take, for example, my spectacular screw-ups on the last two days of the 2008 Laser Masters Worlds in Australia, as described in gory detail in How Many Times I Have Fallen and Never Failed to Fail. The posts are about two days of racing at the end of a long regatta. It's clear to me now that the reason I made stupid mistakes at mark roundings that ruined both days for me was, very simply, that I was tired. If I had been fitter then
  1. I would have been hiking harder and sailing faster on the beats and reaches early in the races, and so would not have been (literally) tangling with the tail-enders late in each race.

  2. I would not have been so worn out near the end of each race that my decision-making became so distinctly dodgy and my boathandling so blunderingly bad. (Not to mention my awfully asinine alliterations.)
Yeah. The problem is my fitness. If I can fix that I can be a much better Laser sailor.

So what to do? Well, there were some slightly helpful answers in the comments to my post on 565 Days and Counting, in spite of the somewhat flippant tone of most of the commenters on that post. Anybody would think that I'm not serious about this Laser sailing lark.

So, with a little help from my friends, I think I've worked out the solution. But this post is already too long, so to read the answer you will have to wait for another day. Which gives you a chance to give some more sarcastic and derogatory advice in the comments...


Greg and Kris said...

I think you've probably nailed it, although a bit harsh on yourself in the offing (leave that to us in the peanut gallery, wink, wink). A year ago, I probably would have laughed at the idea that this stuff required true fitness. Now that I'm six months into it I've discovered that hanging on to that mainsheet, repeatedly jumping across the cockpit, tacking, gybing, and spending a long day out there doing all of it, is very demanding.

I won't bore you with the details hear, but I've had struggles over the past few years and this sailing thing has been a positive addition to my life, resulting in me getting back to an increasingly more regular and vigorous fitness routine to get more fit for more time on the water.

Greg and Kris said...

So fatigued that I can't be bothered to sort out the homonyms.


O Docker said...

Don't forget the donuts - little chocolate donuts - the donuts of champions.

Tim said...

well i'm screwed then!!! I in a worse state physically than I was last year!
I've worked out what does it.
Studying! for two reasons!: being a desk jockey means too sedate a life style too many books to read. And then there is the tendency to nibble as I study...

plus winter! I hate winter.

Still I have time yet to get fit and lighter ... but also another 3 months of study.

Mal's Team Gherkin said...

I'm so weary that I can't even get my boat off the trailer on my own at the moment! D'OH!!!

Carol Anne said...

Alas, I have allowed my fitness program to lapse. I keep promising I will get back to it, and then I don't.

At first, it was because the house was burglarized, and the burglars stole the television and the remote for the VCR (but not the VCR itself) in front of my treadmill, and I just can't plod away on a treadmill without some sort of entertainment.

We're under financial austerity at the moment, but we did, finally, replace the television and VCR (we couldn't just get a new remote).

Unfortunately, my work schedule has me teaching an afternoon class this term -- we need the money, or I'd stick to a strictly night-time schedule -- so that means my former workout time is occupied with putting food on the table and mortgage payments in the bank.

But really, all of these excuses are cop-outs. I should be able to find the time and motivation to get back on that treadmill and get back in shape.

Smilicus said...

Looks like Greg and Tillerman is both riding the fitness wagon from this week.

I once bought a book called Sailfitter: How to become sail fit. Awesome book with endurance and flexibility exercises. I think it is gathering dust in my Garage along with a book called: Fit for life.

We probably need to get fitter to sail smarter and faster.

All the luck guys

PeconicPuffin said...

I used to think that muscle strength was (beyond being an invalid) irrelevant to much gross muscle effort is there? Over time I've come to learn that strength facilitates subtlety...the less effort required to pull or push something, the more refinement I can bring to it.

On the cardiovascular side (walking, treadmill, jogging, excercise bike etc)the same seems to hold.

Pat said...

Friends have a thirty-four foot sloop with power this and that. And, let me tell ya, they show off their strength every time they have to perform an urgent maneuver such as punching the blender and getting out a fast, competitive set on a tray of margaritas.

Frankie said...

Tillerman! My diagnosis is that you're either masochist or suicidal, or both. Do you REALLY want to die on a laser board??? then the count down is for your funeral. Why this obsession? There are plenty of lovely things to do apart from sailing. And why fit? fit for what? fit to die? Just live!!!

Pat said...

The "Cheat the nursing home... " slogan is a bit of mostly tongue-in-cheek humor, but following it is also a sane, decent prescription for health and better quality of life. And, seriously, if you've ever read the genre inspired by Jessica Mitford's "American Way of Dying" and some of the "How we die" studies, you might conclude that there are far worse things than dying on a boat while enjoying oneself and living fully and intensely.

Of course, at some point, health might force a sailor to jump ship from the Laser to a "lead mine", but even so the subtlty and demand of sailing can fully engage body and mind at almost any age. Unlike too many sports, sailing can truly be a lifetime sport and even some nonagerians can enjoy some fulfilling, life-renewing time on the water.

Stephen said...

One would believe that having shoulder surgery to repair damage and allow one to now trim all that excess mainsheet would be incentive enough to get back into shape doing the proscibed exercises. Unfortunately, during the post-surgery period when I was told to not lift anything over 5 lbs, I was forced to do all the lifting with the other shoulder. I live on a farm, there is NOTHING in my life anywhere near 5 lbs., therefore I ended up tearing the other shoulder far worse than the first. You can't win!

PeconicPuffin said...

Sorry to learn of your poor fortune, Stephen, but I've had rotator cuff surgery on both shoulders (nine years apart) and with the proper physical therapy (from a sports therapist...the ones who return you to competitive shape, not "the ability to do everyday things) my shoulders are now probably the strongest component in my aging bod.

Whether or not you can "win" you can surely lose. Fitness reduces injuries and increases performance.

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