How Top Sailors Stay Sharp

When the pros have down time, they find ways to keep their minds and bodies fit.

Sailing World


Tunnicliffe competes in the I Am CrossFit Civil War fitness competition.Anna Tunnicliffe

For many sailors who live in cooler climes, when the temperature drops, we put our boats away and take a hiatus from sailing until the spring thaw. The winter can be a welcome break from a competitive summer, but come springtime, we find ourselves shaking off the rust and trying to get minds and bodies into sailing shape.

The best sailors avoid this cycle. In the offseason, they keep their minds and bodies strong so they're always ready to hit the water. To find out how they do it, I consulted Olympic medalist Anna Tunnicliffe, Artemis Racing skipper Terry Hutchinson, and sailing fitness guru Harry Legum.

Anna Tunnicliffe_
_Skipper Team Maclaren; 2009 and 2011 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year; 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist (Laser Radial)_
"I'm currently into CrossFit. It's such a good workout, and I always wake up with new sore muscles the next morning. I find that the variation and intensity is a fun, yet amazing, way to stay fit and sharp. It mixes all different skill sets that fit into sailing, so it's great cross training. I started at CrossFit 847 in Chicago and now train at CrossFit Gables in Miami. When I'm in town, I work with the coaches, but when I travel, I do the CrossFit travel WOD (workout of the day), or if I can get to a gym, I do the assigned WOD, both of which are very hard and kick my butt. In addition, I love to run, so I run for cardio, too."
Terry Hutchinson_
Skipper Artemis Racing (34th America's Cup), TP52, J24, Farr 40, Melges 24 champion; 2008 US Sailing Rolex Yachtsman of the Year_
"I enjoy cycling—although I don't get to nearly as much as I'd like—primarily because a lot of my down time is spent with my family. Every time I get out on the road bike, it's not nearly long enough. My wife, Shelley, is big into hiking and being outside, which inevitably keeps the whole family moving. We check out a lot of different places with the kids and the family dog; it would seem that this is as challenging as the racecourse. As a team, we have our programs written up by coach Pete Cunningham, but with so much travel it can be difficult to stay on track."
Harry Legum
Founder/trainer Annapolis Sailing Fitness_
"Variety is always a key element. Many of my clients keep a steady cardiovascular routine but try different approaches to keep things fresh. CrossFit is a good example of incorporating challenging exercises that are used in Olympic-style weightlifting and gymnastics. These types of exercises are then blended into a circuit workout."

Some other ways Legum suggests to mix it up: “Entering a 5k or some sort of race can trigger the competitor in you and allow dedication to an event, which in turn keeps you in shape. Signing up for a club sport at the local gym is always a fun option. Hire a trainer, take Pilates, try Yoga, go on a fitness vacation—just keep moving.”