Imagine the exhilaration of racing Formula One, combined with the mental focus of flying a fighter jet, all while playing a high-stakes chess game to win the race with the added bonus of being fire-hosed with water for good effect. Oh, and don’t forget that you are also the engine generating all the power to make the sailboat fly and are operating at maximum heart rate capacity during the entire time.
That, my friends, is what it’s like to sail the supercharged F50 catamaran and why physical and mental fitness is crucial to the U.S. SailGP Team.
Craig McFarlane, head of performance for the U.S. SailGP Team, is the man behind making sure the team is in top shape and recently co-developed the “SailGP Workout” launching today.
“Sailing these boats requires it all: strength, agility, endurance, coordination, and total mental awareness,” said McFarlane. “The guys grinding in the front of the boat are at close-to-maximum heart rates the entire 15-20 minutes of a race, and while the athletes in the middle and back of the boat may not have heart rates quite that high, they are making critical strategic decisions. The boat moves around quite a bit during maneuvers meaning everyone has to be structurally strong and stable, while being incredibly agile.”
The new SailGP workout is just one example of many that McFarlane puts the team through during their workouts, and every set is structured to simulate a component of the F50 sailing experience including grinding, running across a moving trampoline, withstanding the G-forces during maneuvers, and more.
“Our goal was to begin with the strength portion in the front end of the workout, moving immediately into conditioning to elevate the heart rate. Then finish with combining the strength, conditioning, and agility elements over a 20 minute span to simulate race intensity and duration.
Oftentimes, in additional to the exercises, he’ll throw in a mental element immediately between reps to simulate the intense mental acuity needed while being physically exhausted. “I’ll make the athletes complete a puzzle or cognitive challenge during their recovery,” said McFarlane. “This type of mental fitness challenges them to stay sharp while simulating an actual race environment.”
The philosophy behind these workouts is to prepare the athletes for the physical and mental stress during race days. “It’s important to totally fatigue the body and push them to extremes on land, so they’re well prepared for anything on the water,” he said.
Grinder Mac Agnese agrees. “His workouts aim to be one step tougher than what we experience on the water. This gets us mentally prepared to deal with the pain and total exertion we go through on race day,” he said.
“We have the confidence knowing if we can get through one of his workouts, we can get the job done on the boat.”
In comparison to other professional sports, McFarlane puts racing the F50 on par with ice hockey for the intense bursts of power and speed; and rugby or American football for the needed agility, power, and the in-the-moment strategic calls needed during playmaking.
Regardless if you’re trying out for a spot on the U.S. SailGP Team, or striving to improve your fitness level, McFarlane promises a workout like this will make you better and encourages those interested to give it a try in the gym. “It’s a great mix of strength and conditioning that will improve your fitness and functional strength, and make you more resilient.”