Photos: Artemis Offshore Academy

Artemis Offshore Academy one month in

Fitness and first tentative steps afloat

Saturday October 5th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

From the classroom to the gym to the water, every day is a new lesson for the new recruits in the 2014 Artemis Offshore Academy Squad.

After a month in the classroom getting to grips with the finer details of offshore sailing as part of their RYA YachtMaster Offshore qualifications required by the Academy, squad sailors Alan Roberts, Will Harris, Tom Barker and Rich Mason were itching to get out and start training on the fleet of the five race-tuned Artemis Figaros teasing them from outside the classroom window.

Luckily for the boys, the chance to alleviate their frustrations came in the form of a punishing fitness test overseen by Sports and Wellbeing Instructor Chris Szedlak, measuring the sailors’ optimum aerobic, anaerobic and core fitness levels at the start of the season and providing a tailored fitness plan for improvement.

Having regular contact with a coach and a structured fitness programme to work to is as important for a solo sailor as any training out on the water, helping to build the core muscles and stamina needed to cope with the physicality and fatigue that comes with solo offshore sailing.

“Having a structured plan to improve our fitness is really keeping us motivated to get in the gym or pool, even after a long day of sailing,” explained new recruit Tom Barker. “It’s so important for us to be as physically fit as we can be to be able to deal with the rigors of solo offshore sailing and be able to recover quickly.”

With a fitness plan in place and a YachtMaster qualification under their belts, the day the sailors had been waiting for finally came. On Monday 30 September, teamed up with 2013 Academy squad sailors Sam Matson and Jack Bouttell, the skippers took to the water to begin two weeks of Figaro basic training with two-time Solitaire du Figaro competitor and Academy graduate Nick Cherry.

As with all new Academy recruits in awe of the challenge and speed of the Figaro, Alan, Tom and Rich couldn’t wait get on the tiller and see what the boats could do. However, the reality of Figaro training is far from the actuality of racing and balancing long hours on the water and in the gym requires a strict regime to stop the sailors from burning out, as Alan Roberts explained: “Our Academy routine is pretty intense. We get up, swim, have breakfast and a briefing, head out for six or seven hours of Figaro training, have a debrief, gym, dinner and bed with one day to rest. We’re all pretty tired at the end of the day, but I’m loving it. I’m learning and improving myself all the time.”

Out on the water repetition is key to learning and so begins the daily slog of speed testing, line ups, tacking on the whistle, gybing on the whistle, hoisting spinnakers to order and lengthy coastal races in the wind, the rain and often the dark until every Figaro practice and maneuver is ingrained into the minds of the squad.

Described by 2013 rookies Jack and Ed Hill as ‘Figaro Ground Hog day’, the long hours training out on the boats are not easy, and not always fun, as long–time Academy squad member Sam is finding out: “Over the past four days I’ve felt like I’m learning how to sail again, it’s really been back to basics and I’m having to iron out a lot of bad habits. I’m really enjoying training, but it isn’t easy and there have been a few frustrating days. I’ve found myself dropping the spinnaker in the water a lot, something that I’ve never done before.”

“In a way, it’s nice to see the guys making the same mistakes we did in the early stages of our training,” continued winning 2013 Solitaire du Figaro winning-rookie, Jack. “But now they’ve got guys like myself, Ed Hill and Nick who’ve been through it to support them, which will ease the stress and speed up the learning process.”

The 2014 squad will collectively have the chance to put their hard work into practice starting next Wednesday 9th October, with the first in a series of internal Artemis Offshore Academy fleet races. Alan, Tom, Rich, Sam, Jack, Ed, Robin Elsey and double-handers Alex Gardner and Will, will line up against one another throughout the Academy race series running through to next January, with their efforts and performance monitored and recorded as part of their winter training programme. Alan is looking forward to a bit of healthy competition: “The racing series should be good, it will be interesting to see how we manage in more offshore conditions, in rougher sea states and with the added challenges of tiredness and sailing at night. For me the races will be another lesson, but the competition makes it more exciting and, of course, I want to win!”


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