The Modern America's Cup Sailor

With a smaller crew and a team weight limit, America’s Cup athletes must be able to keep up with the demands of more physical boats.

Louis Sinclair, the 24-year-old bowman for Oracle Team USA, is a beast. He can dead-lift 400 pounds, vertical-jump 85 centimeters, has a VO2 max of 70 ml/ kg/min., and has just 8 percent body fat . He’s “young, big, strong, fit,” say his teammates. He is the model modern AC sailor. “The ideal America’s Cup athlete would have the aerobic fitness of [cyclist] Chris Froome and the anaerobic fitness of [sprinter] Usain Bolt, in one person,” says Pete Cunningham, trainer for Artemis Racing. “That’s the challenge — finding an athlete who has both the endurance and the strength to be able to turn the handles and handle extreme loads.”

In order to meet those standards, the sailors have both strength and cardiovascular training multiple times per week, on top of sailing practice. While the helmsman and wing trimmers’ muscular strength is less important than the grinders’, each athlete needs to be as fit as possible.

“We take kilos away from the average weight of the helm and trimmer and give it to the grinders,” says Ben Williams, trainer for Land Rover BAR. “That way, those with the greatest physical output are stronger. But they all still have to be strong, uninjured and healthy.

“We’re trying to look at training more scientifically than we have before,” says Williams. Teams use blood screening for vitamin and mineral monitoring, and wearable tech to aid nutritionists and trainers in creating food and fitness plans unique to each athlete. They measure skin folds on different areas of the body to ensure the athletes are getting stronger and lighter without losing muscle. Three trainers — Cunningham, Williams, and Craig McFarlane of Oracle Team USA — shared what their ideal AC athlete physiology would be.