America's Cup yacht racing: Race analysis and physical characteristics of the athletes
We received from one of our readers a very interesting scientific study, published in the July issue of the Journal of Sports Sciences, concerning the physical demands of America's Cup yacht racing. The study was carried out in Valencia in 2007, during the Louis Vuitton Cup and the actual America's Cup match and was a joint effort of Sports and Medical science institutes in the UK, Valencia and Cape Town.
Although some of the aspects of the study will appear as elementary for America's Cup buffs, there is a considerable amount of interesting data, especially the anthropometric characteristics of the 92 athletes from 2 teams that were studied. There is a "substantial increase in lean body mass over the last three America’s Cups", according to the study. On average, AC sailors get bigger (84kg in the 30th AC, 89kg in the 31st and 94kg in the 32nd) but at the same time leaner (19% body fat, 15% and 13% respectively).
Will the introduction of powered hydraulics in Alinghi 5 put an end to the trend? We certainly hope that grinders will not follow the fate of the Chinese white panda and the polar bear and become yet another endangered species.
The America’s Cup is the oldest competing trophy in sport, yet little is known of the nature and intensity of racing or the physical characteristics of the athletes. In this study, aspects of the physical demands of America’s Cup yacht racing were analysed, including the intensity of exercise and activity pattern of "grinding". Anthropometric data were collected from 92 professional male America’s Cup sailors, and fitness data from a top-4 and a lower-7 ranking team during the 32nd America’s Cup. Over the 135 races, mean race duration was 82 min (s=9), with 20 tacks (s=10) and 8 gybes (s=3) per race. Grinding bouts were 5.5 s (s=5.4; range: 2.2–66.3) long, with 143 exercise bouts per race and an exercise-to-rest ratio of 1:6. Mean and peak heart rate was 64% and 92% of maximum for all positions, with bowmen highest (71% and 96%).
Grinders were taller, heavier, and stronger than all other positions. Body fat was similar between positions (13%, s=4). The higher-standard team was stronger and had greater strength endurance, which probably contributed to their quicker manoeuvres. Intensity of exercise was dependent on the similarity of competing boats and the role of the athlete. The short duration and intermittent nature of grinding is indicative of predominantly anaerobic energy provision.
To read the full study, click on the link in the box above
Labels: America's Cup