Topper sailors from across the North region are looking forward to hitting the racing circuit in better shape than ever before following a series of fitness challenges during lockdown.

Even though North Topper sailors and members of the RYA Regional Training Group have been unable see each other or get on the water for two months, they have been busy taking part in gruelling Zoom circuits and virtual step-counting ‘treks’ to keep fit.

Parent Simon Moss, of Ripon SC, started running fitness sessions for the sailors during the first lockdown and quickly gained a reputation as the North Toppers very own ‘Joe Wicks’ – albeit with a tougher regime and in his own words ‘with less hair’.

The kids preferred Simon’s harder workouts and doing reps with cans of beans, and were also prepared to put up with his choice of 90s rock music and 80s classics for the sessions, which took place seven days a week until sailing resumed again in summer.

The second lockdown saw the Zoom circuits return by popular demand every other day and the latest lockdown has seen three sessions a week.

Simon said: “The real driver was to help the kids stay in touch and keep the team together, busy and entertained, and there was definitely a demand for it. It just grew from there and we still have around 10 log-ons from the kids plus siblings and parents joining in as well.”

Zoom fitness circuit on screenSailing & School

During the latest lockdown, Simon has been running circuits on Saturdays and Sundays with the sailors themselves also now playing a key part in running the fitness programme.

Simon’s son Tom and his friend Finn Goodman, of Teesdale SC, are both are in the RYA Topper North Regional Training Group and have stepped up to lead sessions on Tuesdays.

Tom presents a Zoom abs and cardio circuit and Finn runs the warm-up and cool down and also leads sessions as well. Leading the sessions is both building their self-confidence and contributing towards schoolwork for their GCSE and BTEC Sport courses.

When sailing was recently reinstated as a curriculum option for PE, Tom’s school – Joseph Rowntree in York – was among the first to allow pupils to include sailing as part of their course, enabling Tom to combine his favourite sport with his GCSE.

Having been asked to create a fitness circuit for his schoolwork, Tom was able to not only do this but also deliver it as part of his lockdown sessions for the Toppers, providing great evidence towards his GCSE at a time when students are reliant on course assessments for predicted grades. Running lockdown fitness sessions is also supporting his Duke of Edinburgh Award programme of activities.

Tom said: ‘Dad started it all off, then encouraged me to do it, and it’s boosted my confidence doing the sessions in front of other people because there are some adults taking part as well as sailors, and sometimes there are about eight families. It’s really rewarding to see all the people who come and the friends who take part with me and especially when they’re all out of breath and saying thanks at the end. It’s also great for school for me and Finn because it shows them what we’re doing over lockdown and how we are applying what we’re learning.”

Step counting

In addition to the circuit sessions, the group has added new challenges to the mix for Lockdown 3 with the sailors and their families collectively tackling some impressive long-distance treks during their daily exercise.

Everyone logs their daily step count using a fitness tracker or phone app and submits their results via a WhatsApp group for Simon and fellow parent Andy Goodman to collate: the first challenge was to walk the Topper North circuit from Scaling Dam to Ripon, West Riding, Hollingworth Lake, West Kirby and back to Scaling Dam, a total of 1,286,000 steps!

Next up was a kids v. adults trek between the Topper National Series venues, adding up to 2,206km. This had a handicap system to give the kids a level playing field and was fiercely contested: it went down to the last day and a protest won by the sailors.

The Three Peaks Challenge then used different exercises from circuits to replicate the 7000m height needed to tackle Ben Nevis, Scar Fell and Snowdown, with each squat, lunge and press-up equal to half a metre.

The current challenge – set by the Goodmans – is to walk, run and bike the longest land walking route from Cape Town in South Africa to Magadan in Russia, a mere 22,387km or 14,000 miles! 

Daily update from WhatsApp posts about the group's 'long walk' Having departed on Saturday 6th February, the group at the time of writing was just heading from Zambia to Tanzania and expecting to reach its final destination around the end of March 2021, in time for hopefully an easing of lockdown and a return to the water.

Andy feeds the figures into a spreadsheet and publishes a daily update about how far the group has got, with a picture of the people, buildings or landscapes they would be seeing, and as Simon explains: “It just makes everyone get outside in the fresh air for a walk and the kids are loving it! It’s making all the children and their parents be more active than they otherwise would be at a time when we’re spending most of the day on screens.

“It also gives the children a sense of belonging to a group. They ethos was to keep the squad together and it’s strengthened their friendships, particularly between last year’s zone squad and this year’s Regional Training Group kids and their brothers and sisters.

“The adults enjoy it as much as the children, and the kids have all become so much fitter. The fitness levels have gone through the roof which ties in with what their squad coach Curtis Mearns is always telling them about fitness and hydration for making better decisions around the racecourse.”

Having discovered over the last year that the tech is a doddle for this kind of engagement using Zoom and WhatsApp, although it will be replaced by real-life activity as restrictions ease, the group may return to its online ideas again in the future, for example to get through the winter months.

The North Toppers have a number of events scheduled pending lockdown-easing. To find out more about all training and opens run the by group visit the class association website here.