A chat with… Andrea Madaffari

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A chat with… Andrea Madaffari

15 April 2022

Power, balance, health: a sailor’s training


Alberto’s athletic trainer, Andrea Madaffari, is one of the first members of the sailor’s team to be involved in the preparation of the first important appointment of the project IBSA – Sailing into the future. Together. Even before the training at sea, with the Mach 5, Alberto is working on land, every day.

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 does it mean to physically prepare a sailor?

Many do not imagine what is behind the preparation of a sailor. And we mean sailor in a generic way, because the sailing world is quite large; there are the bulb-less dinghies, which are more likely to turn turtle, for which reason those athletes need specific preparation; there are boats with large crews, boats with last-generation lift foils and, finally, there are boats like Alberto’s, designed and built for high performance over time, with a technically structured manoeuvrability to allow a single sailor to manoeuver even in extreme conditions. Sailing being a complex world, it is difficult to classify a sailor in a single category, in terms of physical preparation. It would be something like analysing the preparation of track and field athletes: there are those who run, those run and jump, throw, and so on. Sailing has less variability than athletics, but still has different types of effort required.


Is there a feature that all sailors have in common?

They do have one: generally, sailors are “pullers”, so much of their activity is aimed at pulling, hauling in and sheeting with more strength, more ability, more stamina and more health. I say with more health – and it is a term that I will use often – because the sailor has to do compensatory activity on all muscle groups. A sailor who does not train and only goes sailing would tend to train much more the tensor muscles, causing in actual fact a muscular asymmetry.


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.

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