Most people sail to enjoy it and reach a level of fitness that allows them to race each weekend.
On the other hand, if you are trying to get to the top whether it be in a dinghy, one design keel-boat or ocean racer, the long hours that you spend on the water honing your skills will demand additional physical training.
Full-time sailing can be an excellent way to improve your physical fitness but you should not rely on this alone.
Additional on-land training not only provides variety but it also allows you to work on aspects of your fitness. This is the fitness you need in an intense racing situation. It may not be gained from a full year of sailing.
Exercise ashore can be made interesting, and enjoyable. It helps you to avoid too much time on the water for the wrong reasons. Exercises can be developed to make your body adapt in a very much more controlled and efficient manner than you could ever hope for on the water.
Fitness is a relative term. The type and level of fitness will vary depending on the type of boat and sailing that you do. It is important to strike a balance between fitness and all other aspects of your sailing.
Fitness encompasses stamina, speed and skill. The mix and relative importance of each is essential. Ascertain which aspect you need to work on for your particular type of sailing.
Think about weightlifting, sprinting and sailing, what do you think the mix would be for each of these for the roles you need to fulfil on your boat?
Get a Professional To Help You With Your Fitness
As with most things to do with achieving greatness in any pursuit I recommend that you find a coach. Get a fitness professional to write you a program so that you can achieve your desired results. They will be able to watch your progress and make adjustments to the program if necessary.
There are plenty of ex-Olympians and high-achieving sailors who have made a profession in this space. Many are more than qualified to guide you to get to where you want to be.
I remember once asking Mike Holt, a multiple world champion in the highly competitive International 505 class, what was the main factor that made him stand out from many of the other high-achieving sailors in that fleet.
His answer was “fitness”, he went on to qualify that statement by saying that “at the end of any race I am able to sail my boat as hard as anyone else in the fleet was able to at the start”