Thursday, January 7, 2010

Shaping up

Although the grinders who traditionally provide the horsepower on America's Cup boats have been replaced by engines for this Match, it is still important for the sailing team to be in top condition.

To that end, enter Joel Rewa-Morgan (NZL), who has joined the team here in Valencia as a physical trainer.

He comes to us fresh off the Volvo Ocean Race, where he held a similar role for the race winning Ericsson Racing Team. In the last AC, he spent time with the Swedish Victory Challenge. So if there's no grinding to be done on board, why do the guys need to be so fit?

"It's important for everybody to be fit!" he says, not surprisingly for someone in his position.

"These guys are professional athletes. Their job is demanding in specific ways. It may be different from previous editions of the Cup, but this time I think they have to be more dynamic as the boats are far more unstable. So in terms of safety, injury prevention, agility, balance... those are all things we're working on.

"Also, weight equates to speed. So the lighter we can get these guys, for their body type, the better. Fat is dead weight. It's non-functional. If we don't have to carry that extra weight, so much the better."

Since Joel started at the beginning of the new year, it's been a matter of jumping in with both feet. The days are long with training sessions set at both ends of the day.

"Time is the one resource we have the least of now. There is a big push on work load for everyone. But to me, that doesn't mean that training doesn't happen. We just have to work around their schedules. So we're getting in pretty early and running sessions at 06:30 and then again at the end of the day at 18:30."

As this is the time of year when many of us make those infamous resolutions to get fit, I wondered if Joel had any advise for those of us who overindulged on the holidays and are looking for a quick fix.

"Habits," he said, as I feared he would. "You shouldn't beat up on yourself if you miss a training session, but you should set realistic goals and just keep at it. General health and well-being isn't a battle you're going win in one day, or one month. It's a way of life. If you put in the effort, you'll be rewarded."