Fitness for Sailing Dinghies – An Overview

Fitness for sailing means different things to different people. Essentially, though, you need to be fit enough to do whatever it is you want to do in the boat, and you need to be fit enough to do on the last leg of the last race of the regatta.

What the Experts Say

Michael Blackburn - Sail Fitter

In all but the lightest wind, better fitness - including flexibility, endurance, strength and agility - will make it easier to execute skills like hiking, tacking, gybing and sailing upwind and get you round the course faster.

Alan Beggs, Hohn Derbyshire and John Whitmore - Mental and Physical Fitness for Sailing

By building up your endurance, strength, flexibility and speed you can effectively supercharge the systems in your boat

Paul Goodison - Laser Handbook

Most sailors are unaware of how much their fitness affects their decision making and technique in the boat

Eric Twiname - Sail, Race and Win

The benefits from training are greatest in heavy weather races when a fit body...leaves the mind free to make good decisions...but in all conditions an all-round feeling of well-being often arises from regular fitness training

Jon Emmett - Be Your Own Sailing Coach

If you are not fit enough it will affect your concentration, as your focus will be on the pain in your legs rather than the wind shift to the right!

Dick Tillman - Complete Book of Laser Sailing

To sail...effectively, and especially to race successfully, you should be in the best physical condition possible

Videos for Fitness for Sailing

Some useful general advice from Olympic sailors on fitness for sailing:

Books with information on Fitness for Sailing

Michael Blackburn - Sail Fitter, page VII, 14, 45, and 46

Alan Beggs, John Derbyshire and John Whitmore - Mental and Physical Fitness for Sailing,  page 54, page 56 and page 71

Sailing Fitness Toolbox - Katherine Knight

Paul Goodison - Laser Handbook, page 112

Dick Tillman - Complete Book of Laser Sailing, page 86

Jon Emmett - Be Your Own Sailing Coach, page 188


Websites and online articles for Fitness for Sailing

This article covers some of the most commonly asked questions by people looking to commence a Fitness regime

Michael Blackburn on the 10 things you must do when working on your sailing fitness

A basic overview for things to consider when starting a fitness program for sailing

The RYA provide a good overall guide to fitness for sailing:

This gives another good overview for Finn sailors

What do the top sailors do to stay fit?

Well, here's what Robert Scheidt does for his fitness...

...and here's what Tillerman has to say about fitness for sailing

Laser Sailing Notes' basic guide to getting into shape for the new sailing season

This site has some general advice about fitness training for sailing

What We Learned...

Deciding what you need to do to get fit for dinghy racing can be more difficult than you first think. This fitness section has ready-made plans to use to get you up to speed as quickly as possible, with loads of extra fitness information that you can use or ignore depending on how much you want to know about fitness for sailing.

The fitness section of this website should help with all the various aspects of fitness, but if you want to avoid all the information, we have also collected some straightforward fitness programs that will work on the specific fitness skills that should help you get up to the fitness level you need and maintain it.

The following are the key things you need to consider before embarking on a fitness program:

  1. What is the optimum weight for the boat you are sailing, and how important is it to you that you get close to this weight (i.e. are you willing to make serious lifestyle changes to bulk up or trim down to achieve a weight, or are you happy to sail with a slight handicap in certain wind conditions?)
  2. How fit do you need to be (this should revolve around your aspirations – are you aiming to be the club champion, or a national champion? One will require a lower fitness level than the other)
  3. How much time can you realistically give to fitness training?

Once you’ve answered these questions you could have a look at the training programmes we have collated, or design your own. We’ve also got sections on all the major aspects of sailing fitness that you can look at to give you a really good idea as to how best to organise your fitness, or just to deal with specific issues as they arise.

Finally, bear in mind the following key points when embarking on a fitness program:

  • Any exercise is better than none
  • Plan your exercise, be adaptable as you progress, and keep records of your progress
  • If you are new to physical training then get a check up from your GP before starting a fitness programme
  • Know what level of fitness you need or want to attain
  • Do a fitness test
  • Try to do stuff you enjoy - you're more likely to keep it up
  • Hydrate
  • Warm up and warm down
  • Have a balanced workout

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