How important is to be the right weight to do well at racing Lasers?
Or do Laser sailors - and dinghy sailors in general - obsess too much about the impact of their body weight on their racing performance?
There is a great series of articles about fitness and nutrition for sailing written by Meka Taulbee on the SailFit website.
One year she measured the heights and weights of sailors at the Laser Midwinters East, and compared the results to how the sailors performed in the regatta. This is how she summarized her conclusions in Wit vs Weight…
The figures I used are based on ten sailors finishing in the top 25% of each fleet.
Let’s start with the full rigs.
The average height was 6’1/2” and the average weight was 180.4 pounds.
One thing that I noticed was that the sailors who weren’t 6 foot or taller were generally the ones who weighed more, while the ones who were 6 foot and over generally weighed less.
Most of the heights were pretty close, but the range in weight was actually 35 lbs.
Interestingly both the lightest and the heaviest sailor in this group finished near the bottom of the top 25% and the closer you got to the top of the group the closer the sailors came to the average.
Hmmm. The top sailors were all close to the average of 180.4 pounds.
Confession: I am currently around 200 lbs. Apparently that's about 20 lbs overweight for optimum performance as a Laser sailor.
Some years recently I have weighed a bit less in the summer when I am running and sailing and gardening a lot more than I am in the winter. Some years I get down to 190-195 lbs but it's been a long time since I've been 180 lbs.
Back in 2004-2006 when I was training to run marathons I was around 180-185 lbs.
Should I be aiming to get back to that range again?
Let's look at some more evidence.
Pam and Doug over at Improper Course have been discussing recently the question as to whether Doug should be sailing a Radial or a Standard Rig Laser at Masters Worlds. In one of their two posts on this topic they presented this chart.
Doug is clearly in a different league to myself, but let's look at how much he weighed in his worst and best performances sailing a Standard Rig Laser at the Masters Worlds in recent years.
1997 - 185 lbs - 1st
2006 - 180 lbs - 1st
1999 - 182 lbs - 3rd
2000 - 183 lbs - 3rd
2008 - 190 lbs - 12th
2007 - 186 lbs - 9th
OK. Not a perfect correlation. But when he was his heaviest (190lbs) he had his worst result.
And he won two world championships weighing 180 and 185 lbs.
Hmmm. I think the evidence is clear. I need to lose some weight.
This year I will race at a competitive weight of 180-185 lbs.
This year will be different.
PS. Right now I have no plan as to how I am going to lose 15-20 lbs in the next few months.
Or do Laser sailors obsess too much about the impact of our body weight on our racing performance?