A veteran of the sector, today Andrea is in charge of coaching young sailing athletes. In his curriculum, he boasts two victories at the world championships, in 1989 and 1991, and four participations in the America’s Cup, three as an athletic trainer and two as a grinder, on one occasion he even did both: in 1987 with Azzurra, in 1992 with Il Moro di Venezia and in 2002 and 2007 with Mascalzone Latino. He has been athletic trainer of the national sailing Olympic team, which he coached throughout the 4-year campaign, up to the 1996 Atlanta Games. He has been a top sailor, and today he dedicates himself full time to the preparation of athletes.
We had a chat with him about how a sailor physically prepares for a competition.
What kind of activities does Alberto specifically do to prepare himself?
Alberto’s training is a combination of alternating aerobic and muscular activities. The choice is to use small strengthening tools to improve his strength. For Alberto’s mental and psychological pleasure, we decided together that he can train freely at home, thus not having to resort to a gym. Alberto devotes a large part of his activity to alternating strength with an aerobic running activity, which he likes, looking for aerobic capacity and power. Capacity is the ability to have your basic stamina in the long run. Aerobic power, on the other hand, is required because it has these spurts that will allow Alberto in a few minutes to change a sail in rough seas, hoist the new one, and put away the other. I call them the moments when one asks what I am doing here, why am I here: in those moments you need all your ability to nourish your muscles through quality aerobic power. When he runs, he doesn’t just jog, he alternates between medium runs and repetitions, stretches, rhythm games that are used in athletics to increase intensity in a short time.
Alberto’s preparation, if it could be expressed in a few words, is aimed at ensuring that he can navigate in total safety, with a ready body. The health aspect is absolutely a priority. We must put him in a position to be an Alberto capable of living with the efforts that will be required of him on board.
Is there a criterion that guides athletic training? How is the ideal performance achieved?
Preparation is an athlete’s training. In training, exercise stress is to be kept under control, because it must create adaptation, without generating problems: if stress is too low, there is no training, no improvement; if stress is too high, there is a risk of inflammation. The difficulty is finding the balance, in order to achieve maximum performance without causing injuries. With Alberto, I have the advantage of having a lot of time, I am not exasperated by this research. We can work in peace, and above all we have all the time to find the right quality, subjecting his body to adequate loads and having all the time to carry out the unloading and rest phases, in order to be absolutely ready in November.
With Alberto, we spent some time trying to understand the exact execution of exercise, breathing and timing, to avoid overloads. Together, we analyse all these aspects as much as possible, in order to protect his health. I propose perhaps simpler things to protect his body. I have to make sure that he increases his skills in a safe way. We then have the time necessary to work on the shortcomings; he will have to listen carefully to his body, and together we will work to fill the gaps.
As for offshore sailing – the category Alberto belongs to – what kind of activity should be planned?
It’s an activity that alternates periods of high manoeuvring intensity with periods of relative less intensity – I would not say rest, because in that specialty rest does not exist. At certain times, there is a need for a lot of power, both aerobic and muscular, during a change of sails for example. Pulling, ordering, rearranging and move weights again requires real power, which is expressed alternately in moments not always directed by our will, but which depend on the situations in which we find ourselves. Alberto must not only increase his aerobic and muscle power, but also try to have the best possible level of fitness and health, before weighing anchor.
Can you better explain what you mean with “level of fitness and health”?
The concept of fitness and health is a simple one, for any sport of nature, and sailing is one of the sports of nature par excellence; you have to be physically fit. It’s impossible to face a challenge like Alberto’s by bringing on board old or recent issues. Training in this case is not just a preparation aimed at seeking the performance in the regatta; it is also aimed at raising his overall fitness level and making sure that, by the time he embarks on competitions that last several days, his level of health is excellent. A good part of the preparation, in fact, is aimed at making sure that his health is at the top in the days before departure. Our common ultimate goal is this. It seems trivial, but it is not at all. Let’s think of the athletes who run the 100-meter final at the Olympics: they all have small ailments, some stress… surely those who are healthier than others will do well; those who are healthier will perform better; this is true for all athletes, and is decisive for the result of an athlete who begins a solo offshore race.
Did you already know Alberto as a sailor? What do you think of him?
I did not know him, we’ve only been working together for a short time, but he’s very determined. His is an interesting challenge for me too: I also put myself on the line, and I am aligned with him in this desire to see what we can do. The solo sailor was missing from my resume. Alberto is meticulous, serious, attentive to all details, has the right mentality. He is the first solo navigator I met in person, and he is a good sailor, a good athlete. He’s very focused, I like him a lot.