4 MIN 19 September 2023

Nutrition for yachtsmen involved in offshore competitions has to take many aspects into account: prolonged effort, sudden changes in temperature, metabolism, which has to cope with unusual wake and rest patterns, and the high level of concentration required.

Some roles, such as bowman, sewer and grinder, require strength, agility, energy and physical prowess. Other roles, such as tactician, navigator and helmsman, while still requiring a lot of agility, are more focused on concentration and mental alertness.

Each role therefore requires a calibrated diet based on the physical and mental effort required. In sail sports, calorie consumption is around 150-300 calories per hour and, in extreme cases, depending on the class of vessel and in particularly adverse weather conditions, it can even exceed 500 calories per hour.

Sailing is a sport classified as an activity with a “neurogenic” type of cardiovascular effort, characterised by medium to high increases in heart rate. Muscular effort is predominantly static or explosive.

A yachtsman’s diet therefore has to support the effort required during training and competition. While diet alone does not have the power to increase an athlete’s performance, an inadequate diet can considerably limit performance.

When preparing for a competition, yachtsmen are advised to opt for easy to digest foods, mainly complex carbohydrates, pasta or rice, with a simple sauce based, for example, on vegetables, and seasoned only with raw extra virgin olive oil. A Mediterranean diet is a good option as it includes at least five portions of seasonal fruit and vegetables a day, fully covering the body’s mineral and vitamin requirements to cope effectively with the physical and mental effort required, and importantly with exposure to the sun.



Managing the diet of a crew involved in a race lasting several days is a complex undertaking. A variety of factors need to be considered, including calorie requirement based on the role and physical structure of each competitor, as well as gender, weight and height.

Another factor to consider is age: in fact, up to 29 years of age the metabolism is calibrated for an energy intake divided into a few meals, with a balanced ratio between nutrients. Later in life it is better to increase the number of meals and lighten them. After the age of 30, athletes need to pay more attention to the pace of their metabolism, which burns calories more slowly.

“The basal metabolism of each crew member will have to be taken into account, technically everyone needs a different kind of food”, explains Roberto Avanzino, a food and wine lecturer, sailing instructor and writer. “From the hard work of the grinder to the lesser physical effort of the tactician, along with the intermediate roles of the bowman and trimmer. The galley has to work like a tailor-made suit: you have to consider the skills of the crew, the technology on board, and the cook’s expertise”.

Shifts and nights must also be considered on a boat: “For night shifts, always considering the person’s weight and role, we need to think about easily digested snacks that provide energy and sugar. A salted beef sandwich can provide energy for about 4 hours, unlike a packet of biscuits with jam, the energy from which runs out after about two hours”, adds Avanzino.



Based on this principle, breakfast should also differ depending on the specific requirements of each role: for example, two eggs and two slices of bacon for the grinder and a yoghurt with fresh fruit for the tactician. Snacks during physical activity are also essential, with balanced protein-energy bars or simply Parmesan cheese (the 36-month-aged variety is very easily digested and also suitable for any lactose intolerant crewmen). Energy bars must not replace meals but can serve as a supplement when required. Another precaution to take is to time nutrition, as it’s much better to eat 1 apple every two hours than 4 apples at midday: an overly full stomach draws blood away from the muscles during digestion and lowers the concentration threshold.

The Cetilar® Nutrition range of sports nutrition products include Race Bars, gluten- and doping-free bars enriched with Sucrosomial® Iron and Sucrosomial® Magnesium. The advantage of protein-energy bars is that they are an extremely practical product, designed for consumption during sporting activity, with a complete and balanced formulation, enriched with all the nutrients needed to ensure the energy intake required by athletes, including offshore yachtsmen.


How to plan yachtsmens’ meals during races


Here is an example of an indicative daily menu for an offshore race lasting more than two days (quantities to be determined based on individual consumption):

  • Breakfast
    Milk (whole) 125 g; breakfast biscuits 80 g; banana 200 g.
  • Lunch
    Rice 120 g; grated Parmesan 15 g; green pesto 100 g; olive oil 10 g; pine nuts 50 g; cooked ham 120 g; apple 200 g.
  • Snack
    Savoury crackers 50 g; 2 bananas; dark chocolate 50 g.
  • Dinner
    Cheese omelette 150 g; spinach 100 g; olive oil 50 g; bread 80 g; fruit 200 g.
  • Free/alternatives for snacks
    Fruit 300 g; energy bars totalling around 380 kcal.

It is also important to consider that, during a race, shifts alternate between 4 hours of work and 2 hours on watch, which is demanding but manageable by having either energy bars or, alternatively, a super food such as a mix of chocolate flakes, coconut chunks, dried fruit and dehydrated red fruits on hand. A healthy and balanced mix that contains essential micronutrients, providing healthy and precious energy which, despite being high in calories, does not weigh down the stomach.


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