Leaving nothing to chance on water requires dedicated preparation. The working day for the Mini Maxi crews begins in earnest as the sun rises; physical conditioning and mental wellbeing are treated seriously. All teams have their own approach; whether it be hours in the gym, cycling northeast Sardinia’s mountain bike trails or swimming lengths in the sea.
Alex Schaerer’s Caol Ila R have their own personal trainer to ensure the crew are in shape to face the demands of each day’s racing. “Exercises and a stretching class help the boys wake up ready for the day’s sailing,” explains the crew’s Swiss fitness coach Andre Winterfield, who runs a beach session each morning. “On the boat you have to sprint quickly in different directions, lift heavy sails, be flexible when the boat is moving. We do a lot of group exercises: this improves spirit, creates trust between teammates.”
The emphasis on physical preparation is embraced by Caol Ila R’s rivals. “It’s a heavy boat so everything you do is loaded, especially for the grinders,” explains Terry Hutchinson, a key member of the afterguard on 2012 champion Bella Mente. “These guys train hard, go to the gym everyday. It’s a balance between physical and cardiovascular strength.”
Practice makes perfect
The Mini Maxi fleet arrived in Porto Cervo in the week ahead of the event, allowing themselves crucial training days. The Costa Smeralda is a sailing paradise, but a challenging one. “Time on the water and on the boat is the most valuable thing,” reveals Alegre bowman Matt Cornwell. “The ethos of our team is to keep guys together year on year and build on it. It’s a strength of ours.”
“You need a well-honed crew of professionals, we are racing and practicing for up to 75 days a year,” reveals Bella Mente’s American owner Hap Fauth. “It’s a big programme, we move with 2-3 containers, our travelling crew now is 30, 22 sailing and the rest support crew: cooks, carbon fibre and winch guys, sailmakers. It’s not for the fainthearted, it needs to be organised and orchestrated a year ahead.”
Each training session and race is closely analysed, the boat’s performances assessed, data crunched and analysed, the results shared with the team. The quest is continual improvement. “We have a full time data analysis person who collects information and debriefs on the boat’s performance,” says Hutchinson. “When you get to 100% of the boat’s performance and you still get someone going faster than you that’s when you scratch your head and see what you can do in specific situations to race the boat better. It’s the pinnacle of our sport, you fight for every single inch.” “Each day we will make mistakes,” admits Vascotto, “but every day we try to improve, this is the important part.”