Training Camps Explained 

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We hear about the Skandia Team GBR sailors heading off to ‘training camps’ all over the world in a bid access the best conditions and best facilities all year round.   But what exactly goes on at a ‘training camp’ and in what way do camps play an integral part in Britain’s maintaining its status as the world’s top performing Olympic Classes sailing nation.

As the Skandia Team GBR sailors gather en masse in Palma for the annual pre-Princess Sofia Regatta full squad training camp, Olympic Development Squad Manager Barrie Edgington gives us an insight into life at a camp.  

“Training camps fall into two categories; whole squad camps and class-specific camps. It is the whole squad camps that we organise and manage, while the coaches and sailors lead on their own class camps, liaising with, and feeding back to, the STGBR management team.  

“Whole squad training camps serve a different purpose for the Development Squad sailors and the Performance Squad sailors. But fundamentally they are great opportunity for us to get all the sailors, coaches, sports science team and support staff together to create an environment of excellence and set the culture and tone of what it is to be part of Skandia Team GBR. There is a huge power in reinforcing that underpinning ethos of ‘the team’.  

“All the sailors, whether the top guys or the newcomers to the Development Squad, take a lot of confidence from seeing, and interacting with, the strong support team that is behind them. The enthusiasm and motivation that sparks from that confidence is contagious.    

“Young sailors who walk into these camps with a degree of professionalism see how the top guys operate and it gives them something to aspire to. They can see the work ethic it takes to get to, and stay at, the top, which can drag a young sailor’s own standards up.  

“The Development Squad has five whole squad camps at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy during the winter. These are really crucial camps for the sailors to access the sports science team, physios and support staff to get their physical and mental preparation right over the winter.  

“A massive part of becoming, and remaining, a World Class athlete is that you are always looking to learn more to keep developing. This can be on the water but also a significant amount of the education and knowledge building process takes place in classrooms.  

“At the four-day camps at WPNSA at least two or three evenings are taken up by whole squad classroom lectures by specialists on such things as rules, meteorology, tactics and strategy and nutrition. The separate classes also spend time in the classroom with their coaches and other specialists so that they receive very bespoke learning. These class-specific sessions may include video analysis, strength and conditioning advice or technical help.  

“Quite often, especially in the early part of an Olympic cycle, Performance Squad sailors will also join in with these camps to get time on the water alongside other members of the team. This is fantastic for the young sailors and definitely shifts the dynamic of the camp as they get a chance to measure themselves against the world’s best in their class.  

“The whole concept of squad camps keeps evolving as we add more levels of infrastructure. WPNSA has been our primary base since before the Athens 2004 Olympics and the recent addition of the Portland House accommodation block is a fantastic facility, providing the right environment for balancing rest and recuperation and the required focus during camps. This has helped sailors be more professional in their approach; before accommodation was a lot more hostel-based. The new RYA Performance Centre at Portland Marina has also had a big impact on sailors being able to access top class gym and workshop facilities.  

“The pre-regatta training camp in Palma is equally Performance and Development Squad based. Historically it has always been viewed as the start of the season but, for the Performance Squad sailors, that has changed over the past few years as the winter Southern Hemisphere regattas have taken on an increased significance. There isn’t really any such thing as an ‘off-season’ for the top guys now.  

“For the Development Squad sailors the Palma camp and regatta is the first chance after their winters’ training to put some markers in the sand for the rest of the season.  

“The camp will be less formalised than the winter Development Squad camps but there will be plenty of work going on. Palma is a great venue with a good mix of conditions with the sailors’ training continuing to be driven by their performance profiling [U1] and the recognition of what they need to learn and work on.  

“All the Skandia Team GBR physios, sport scientists and support team will be in attendance so that all sailors and coaches can easily access advice and support as part of their ongoing planning for the core part of the season.  

“Our team spirit is always one of the most talked about elements of Skandia Team GBR’s success. The sailors, coaches and support team are a close knit group and the camps are where this bond is fostered. The impact of this bond on whole team performance is unquestionable. If you can’t get excited about that then you are in the wrong game.”     ·    

The 2011 Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofia – MAPFRE Regatta – the third round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup Series - takes place in Palma, Majorca from 2-9 April.