Sailboats, Cycling, Technology and Sleep
As an avid sailing enthusiast and former reporter who covered two America’s Cup races for U.S. radio stations coast to coast, I was glued to NBC’s live coverage of the 2017 America’s Cup match race between Teams USA and New Zealand. Best of Seven wins the Cup — and the technology of these syndicates, particularly Team Emirates New Zealand, is mindblowing.
First, there’s the speed of the AC50 catamarans (15 meters — nearly 50 feet long). They use multi-hulled dagger boards to allow them to hydrofoil at speeds over 40 knots (more than 45 mph!)
But the thing that gets me about the Kiwis is their use of Olympic level athletes, or cyclors, using high intensity pedaling to generate power that fuels the boat’s hydraulic pressure. That’s four hard-core cyclists going full bore on a sailboat. They’re using leg power instead of the traditional upper-body brute-strength winch grinding to turn the boat and shape the sails.
From what I’ve heard, other syndicates (teams) also looked at using pedal power, but deemed it too dangerous because these cyclors also have to quickly jump across the catamaran’s netting to the other side of the boat on every tack (upwind turn) and gybe (downwind turn.) Only the Kiwis did it and they outlasted all other challengers to race against the defending US Team.
In a team NZ video, cyclor Simon van Velthooven, said the guys push themselves so hard they may lose their senses by the end of a race. The concern is that having unclear vision or losing your balance, especially in heavy winds, could send you right over the side of the boat.
NBC’s live coverage includes smart monitoring of each cyclor’s cardiac output as they push themselves into the red zone, or beyond the red zone as some have said. And then, after a race, they need a lot of recovery.
Smart Tech Aids Recovery for Professional Athletes
The smart fitness trackers during the races supply real-time data of physical exertion and safety, while recovery becomes focused on nutrition, hydration and, of course, rest. How well the body is rested affects how efficiently an individual is able to replenish nutrients and rebuild muscle for speed, endurance and strength, according to the journal SLEEP.
So, there are two things that warrant attention here:
1. If you consider yourself tech savvy, explore the engineering, aerodynamics and hydrodynamics that go into every America’s Cup challenger and defender campaign. Whether or not you have interest in sailing, the design and use of technology is on par with NASA’s advancements, and helps everyone learn about how we move in the water, with great implications not just for boating, but also for sustainability and environmental initiatives in the near future.
2. Think about the concept of recovery and today’s smart approaches for professional athletes and serious would-be warriors. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is an essential part of recovery, necessary to repair muscle memory and release hormones that help our bodies perform to their potential. Good quality sleep improves concentration and elevates mood.
Sleep deprivation is known to increase levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which exacerbates fatigue, low energy and decreased ability to focus when you need to be at the top of your game.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) explains that rest includes sleep and mental rejuvenation. A light activity, like walking the dog, helps recovery by enhancing circulation.
Mindfulness is a big part of both performance and recovery. A sleep tracker, such as the Emfit QS, provides stress analysis and lets you know how much light, deep, and REM sleep you get each night. The more restless the sleep, the harder the previous workout has been, and the lighter the next workout should be. It helps to identify symptoms to get a proper diagnosis so you can make a personal course correction. Every ounce of preparation makes a difference when you compete at a world-class level. And for the rest of us … life is good when the body’s well rested.
For more from Marcia Simon, visit mseusa.com/reality-check-blog.