ALAMEDA -- The America's Cup, a major international sailing competition that comes to San Francisco Bay later this year, promises to turn even the most hopeless landlubbers on to the sport. Competing boats will be the fastest in history, and the unpredictability of the boats and the Bay could make for some exciting scenes.
Though the 34th America's Cup will bring the races closer to shore than previous competitions have, onlookers still may find themselves at too great a distance to fully appreciate the sailors, some of the best trained athletes on the planet. To best prepare themselves for the demands ahead, crew members of Alameda-based Artemis Racing -- the challenger of record for this year's Cup -- undergo a rigorous training regimen. This includes once-a week yoga sessions at Bladium with life and wellness consultant/coach Agneta Sundberg.
"They are a very humble and awesome group to work with," said Sundberg, also known by the titles of holistic health coach and yoga teacher. "They have so much body awareness that it's a pleasure for someone like me to work with them."
Sailing, many argue, demands as much physical endurance as mountain climbing. Once on water, high waves often greet the sailors. Typically, these combine with cold and wind to sap both mind and body in a sport that requires strength, stamina and extreme concentration.
"We train to delay the onset of lactic acid (which leads to muscle ache, soreness, discomfort and a burning sensation in the muscles)," Artemis Racing CEO Paul Cayard said.
To that end, Sundberg's classes help augment what workouts the sailors already endure.
"We strengthen and stretch," said Sundberg, who has worked with the Artemis crew since October. "We work more on yoga as a base for stretching and moving. This is a kind of balance of strength and precision work to prevent injuries and be safer."
The crew members, in turn, appreciate Sundberg's efforts.
"Working with Agneta has been good, from my perspective, as I feel the guys have learned a lot about their bodies," said Artemis Racing exercise physiologist Pete Cunningham. "From a sailor's perspective, I think the sessions have been good fun but also pretty tough physically on them at times. We have been able to really mold the sessions into exactly what the guys have needed. Agneta has been great at picking up on areas where they are strong and areas where they are weak and modifying her sessions accordingly. Clearly lower back, shoulders and general posture are areas where the guys need the most help."
Sundberg met the Artemis crew through Bladium owner Brad Shook but quickly established deeper connections. The first begins in Sweden. Sundberg, a current Alameda resident and mother of two adult daughters, is a native of that country. So too is Artemis Racing founder and owner Torbjörn Törnqvist, whose team represents the Royal Swedish Yacht Club (though his employees hail from various parts of the world).
Yoga itself provides a second connection to a few of the sailors, who have experienced at least some training in these exercises that trace their origins to ancient India. As for those new to yoga, they have quickly become ready and willing students.
"Some of the crew members, and particularly our French sailors, have done yoga previously," Cunningham said. "Some of the guys are complete newcomers, and that has certainly been one of Agneta's strengths as she has admirably been able to work with a group of rather mixed ability."
Thanks to the Alameda Point presence of Artemis Racing (and now that of Italy's Luna Rossa team) and its training under Sundberg, new connections have started to develop.
"Through the Internet and cyberspace, I've noticed how much Alameda has been put on the map (thanks to the America's Cup)," Sundberg said. "I've received much more interest about this little island and the big event that we're going to have in San Francisco Bay. I think this is definitely going to be huge for Alameda."
Artemis crew members likely would say the same about Sundberg's efforts to prepare them for this summer's competition.