Vendee Globe skippers seek top form for upcoming race

Skippers in search of their peak form
© Gilles Martin-Raget/Groupe Bel
There are now fewer than eight months to go before the Vendée Globe gets underway and skippers are currently actively working on their physical preparation in order to reach their peak form on November 10. Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) and Kito de Pavant's (Groupe Bel) physical trainers tell us more about the key-elements of an ideal training.

A round-the-world race as tough as the Vendée Globe actually begins long before monohulls cross the start line on November 10. Competitors are already focused on the race and busy with many types of preparations in order to be ready for the upcoming race.

One of the top entries in their to-do list is a physical training that will grow more and more intense, aimed at helping their bodies produce extreme efforts for several months and allowing the skippers to avoid potential lack of energy, which tends to happen a lot when at sea. That specific kind of work has become more and more frequent among offshore races participants and many of them actually have a personal physical trainer.

CRESS Sport Director Loïc Borie specializes in training equipment and he is also the physical trainer of the French national women’s rugby team. He has been in charge of Bernard Stamm’s physical preparation since 2004. He explains :

'The problem with sailing is that you never actually recoveror rest when you’re on a boat. Yachtsmen spend 20% of their energy just to stay on their feet. And operating the boat also requires a lot of energy. They have to avoid unnecessary movements but for that, they need to be strong. And of course, they need to prepare without gaining weight because if they do, they’ll have to eat more and load more food on the boat. It’s a vicious circle.'

The goal for Bernard Stamm is to reach his peak form in less than eight months and for that, he will go through series of training sessions. 'At this time of the year, we’re working on muscle strengthening and prevention, mostly focusing on joints, to avoid stupid injuries on the boat, Loïc Borie adds. We’re also improving Bernard’s stamina through swimming, running or rowing sessions at least twice a week. And two additional weight room sessions. '

The work schedule is a little lighter for Kito de Pavant (Groupe Bel), who has been coached since 2003 by Olivier Maurelli, the physical trainer of the Montpellier handball team and the football players of Arles-Avignon.

'For now, we have a rhythm of two or three sessions a week, always in the morning because later in the day, Kito has to work on his boat, which will be launched soon. We are trying to improve some very important factors for him, like his balance and muscle strength. I think we'll keep this rhythm for a while and then maybe we'll tune it down to only two sessions a week. I'll see him less often when he actually starts sailing. But we'll have catch up sessions. Our goal is for him to arrive fresh in Les Sables d'Olonne for the Vendée Globe start and that he later feels that all the work we did is helping him manage his effortsd better during the race.'

Unlike de Pavant and Maurelli, Stamm and Borie can't see each other several times a week as they are respectively based in Brest and Bordeaux. Phone calls and internet come in handy, saving them both many roundtrips. 'We call each other often and I gave him a heart rate monitor so he can send me all his training sessions data through internet. I have his heart rate chart and all the information I need. That makes it easier for us to talk about it and adjust his training sessions if necessary.'

Maurelli begs to differ: 'I don't trust training plans sent through email or the internet. If we're about to start a session and Kito tells me he's tired, I will immediately adapt the session to his form. And if he starts feeling any pain, it's better if I'm next to him.' But eight months before the race starts, priority is given to the boat preparation. Because a yachtsman who is on form but has a weak boat just cannot win the Vendée Globe…

Vendee Globe website