Richard Mason Sailor


Sailing fitness with Rich Mason

Musto Ambassador and pro sailor Richard Mason gives us an exclusive insight into the daily training, fitness and nutrition required for him to perform at his best in the water.


Sailing is classically considered a docile sport. The stereotype yachtsman sunning himself with Gin and Tonic in hand whilst his boat glides effortlessly through the waves. This couldn’t be further from the truth in modern yacht racing. The latest high performance machines require power and endurance just to get them around the racecourse, and when you add the element of competition, each race can be brutal.

I train for sailing for a number of reasons but my absolute, over-riding motivation for getting out of bed and going to the gym in the morning is that I bloody love sailing, I want to take every opportunity that I am offered and I want to excel.


In my day to day program I am currently focusing on Hypertrophy – increasing muscle and size. Although 70 kgs is just about perfect for an Olympic dinghy, it doesn’t really cut it for fast foiling boats. The extra bulk and muscle is needed due to the higher loads and reducing the likelihood of injury in the inevitable big crashes.

Putting on weight is a constant battle for me as I naturally weigh 70kg and it is made more difficult with long periods away from home when I am abroad competing.

When I am at home, my exercise regime consists of a four week cycle where the load is gradually increased through weeks one to three, and week four is a ‘de-load’ week which gives the body some time to rest and recover. The training itself is broken down into four areas (although there is often crossover):

1. Weight training

Four sessions per week 90 mins per session.
These sessions are the main focus of my training. They are for building muscle size as well as power and endurance. Here is a typical session:

The final two exercises are performed as a ‘super set’ which means they are completed one after the other with no rest.

Exercise Weight (%max) Reps Sets Rest (sec)
Clean 90 3 5 90
Bent Over Row 75 10 5 60
Chins Bodyweight 10 5 60
Barbell Curls 75 10 5 60
Reverse Wood chop 85 10 3 60
Roll Outs Bodyweight 10 3  

2. Cardio

A decent heart and lungs are really important to sailing because of the duration that you are working for. 3 or 4 races per day can equal 5 hours of sailing and if your base fitness isn’t good, tiredness can set in by the end of the regatta. This can not only affect your physical performance but the mental processes that are so important to winning yacht races. I do at least two cardio sessions per week:

a. One long endurance session 120+ minutes on the bike, preferably outside as long as it’s not raining!
b. Interval session on the rowing machine. 10 x 1 minute sub maximal effort with prescribed wattage. 1 minute rest between sets.

Richard Mason_Get fit for sailing

3. Core Stability and stretching

This is absolutely critical for injury prevention. If I can’t sail due to injury then I can’t eat, so it is an area that cannot be taken lightly. The main exercises for strengthening my core are tagged onto the end of my Hypertrophy sessions. This is great because my body is already tired from the workout, so if I can hold good form then I know I will be able to do the same on the boat.

I also have a few core activation exercises that I use as a warm-up before any workouts. These wake up the deep core muscles so that they are working to protect vulnerable parts of the body – like the back- from injury. I also use these exercises before a big days sailing for the same reason.

Exercise Name Time (sec)
Overhead Squat 30
T-Stances 30
Split Lunge With Rotation 30
Renegade rows 30
Single Leg Squats 30

4. Nutrition

I didn’t really start seeing an improvement in my strength and weight until I got my nutrition right. In order to see any meaningful gains in my weight with the amount of exercise I am doing, my target is to eat 3800 cal per day. This in itself takes some training, firstly to prepare that amount of food, but mostly to eat it all!

It is not just the amount that I eat which is important, but the type of food. If I do a big week’s training and eat poorly (mainly too much saturated fat) I feel sluggish and really struggle to get out of bed at the end of the week. It is amazing how many tasty alternatives there are to eat healthy fats and pile in the calories, like replacing chips with baked sweet potato, or adding avocado, nuts and plenty of olive oil to your salad.
In the end, I do this because I love it. I can push my body to its limit because I want to be the best and I enjoy seeing how far I can go. The rewards for doing a good job in the gym are huge – the sensation of flying over the water at 30+ kts is unrivaled and all the pain and sweat to get there are quickly forgotten.



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