The new America’s Cup Class boats are power hungry machines.
Every function on board is powered by the sailors – no batteries or engines are permitted to turn winches or move daggerboards or wings.
Instead, the boats have a hydraulic system that gets charged by the sailors. Either through standard grinding pedestals which the majority of the teams have installed, or bicycle pedestals the New Zealand team are employing.
In both cases the goal is to replenish a hungry system that is constantly being drained by the wing trimmer and helmsman who controls the foils – and each adjustment reduces the available pressure in the system.
This is why fitness is such a critical aspect of this America’s Cup. All of the roles on board require the sailors to be athletes in peak condition. They need power, strength, agility, and superhuman aerobic capacity.
According to Craig McFarlane, Oracle Team USA’s physical performance manager, the ideal America’s Cup sailor weighs between 93 and 96kg if in one of the three primary grinder positions, or between 78 and 84kg if a wing trimmer or helmsman.
During a race grinders can average up to 93 per cent of their maximum heart rate for the entire race, peaking at 98 per cent at maximum exertion. At this time a sailor will generate maximum power output of more than 1700 watts, and generate an average power output of more than 300 watts for a 25-minute race period.
In training, America’s Cup sailors will achieve a maximum deadlift of 200kg; bench press of 150kg; pull up of 150kg; and power clean of 120kg.
To achieve this, Oracle Team USA sailors workout on average nine session per week, spread over six days, including at least one pool or beach (swimming and hill running) session.
There is a focus on grinding sessions – up to three per week – in addition to other weight training and cross training activities such as boxing, stand-up paddle boarding and surf ski sessions, high-intensity workout finishers, and even the occasional high intensity, and high-stakes, table tennis match!
This week, the team endured the latest in a series of grinding performance tests. Every sailor achieved a personal best, showing that progress continues as the sailors build towards racing beginning on May 26. The daily grind continues.