Student – Athlete – Skipper Tests 49er Crew Fitness in Thesis Paper

Danish 49er helm, Jonathan Bay, recently completed his thesis paper.  Not surprising for this up and coming sailor, he decided to focus his studies on his passion for sailing.  Also not surprisingly for any 49er helm, he decided to focus his studies on torturing crews;)

As he states in his abstract, “The investigation confirmed the possi-bility of quantifying the physiological performance of a 49er crew by measuring Peak Power Output and fatigue in the spinnaker hoist/drop.”  The real proof, however, (of tortutre at least) is in the video!


Here is the complete abstract in English.

“The purpose of the following study was to investigate the possibilities of developing a fitness test, that could offer a precise, reliable and standardized quantification of a 49er crew´s capacity for physiological perfor-mance during three races of three laps in the Theater Style Racing format in wind velocities from 5 to 12 m/s, by producing measures for the crew´s Peak Power Output and speed in the movement patterns during spinnaker hoists/drops and tacks/gybes respectively and fatigue during both movements. This investigation required the developing of a 49er simulator and a test procedure called the Bay test. These were developed after a movement analysis of the work of a 49er crew during sailing, made by video documenting eight sub-jects´ movements during three 49er races. All of the subjects had 49er crew experience. A reliability study of the developed test procedure was done by investigating the reproducibility in a test-retest situation using the same subjects. Furthermore the validity of the Bay test was discussed by using results from a fatigue study of 49er crews, a movement analysis and relevant literature. The test score of the Bay test was found to be very reproducible and the typical error was found to be 1,6 %. The validity of the test was estimated to be high because of the findings in the fatigue study, the correlation between movements on the water and in the simulator and de measured values influence on sailing performance. The investigation confirmed the possi-bility of quantifying the physiological performance of a 49er crew by measuring Peak Power Output and fatigue in the spinnaker hoist/drop. However, the possibility of quantifying speed and fatigue in tacks/gybes could not be confirmed. Further adaptions of the test procedure and examination of these should be made to obtain a more valid and reliable quantification of 49er crew´s physiological performance.

Unfortunatly for most of us, the rest of the paper is in Danish.  However, it does translate well in google translate, so is still readable for those interested.  Especially fun is that gybes are called, “bomninger”, enjoy!

Interestingly, it seems the crew test was in some part inspired by theatre style racing at the 2012 European Championships, the finals format that increasing intensity, fan experience, and the physicality of crew work.  “In addition, there were in the evaluation process of the format a consensus among the crew on the final format dictated a sharp increase in demands on strength and conditioning in relation to the competition format.”

The hypothysis is to find a correlation between fitness and boathandling.  The physical test is used for fitness, and a video analysis is used to rate boathandling, and boathandling while fatigued.  Not surprisingly, published studies could not correlate normal tests, like VO2 max to sailing performance as seen in racing results.  There are just too many other variables that go into results, muddying the water.  Can fitness be correlated with boathandling?  A good question!

Jonathan looks at three aspects during the test:

  • maximum power
  • speed
  • fatigue rate

One interesting conclusion seems to be that crews will not be able to recover to full capacity between theatre style races.  If that hypothisis proves to be true, then fitness will become a more integrally linked to results than the status quo format.

In the end, the Bay test is able to test the capacity and fatigue related to crew work in Theatre Style racing.  It is not able to determine the speed portion.  So, it sounds like my original thesis, that this is a torture test for crews is largely substantiated;)

Congrat Jonathan, on completing every skippers dream!