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Page last updated at 20:22 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 21:22 UK

Day in the life of Olympic sailors

Ben Rhodes (left) and Stevie Morrison
Rhodes (left) and Morrison go to Beijing as gold-medal contenders
Sailing? Bit of a breeze isn't it? All gin and tonics and deck shoes? Well, er, no, not in the Olympics.

British sailors Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes are going to Beijing as genuine medal contenders in the high-performance 49er dinghy.

The former world and European champions spent the winter alternating between home in Exmouth and their training base in Palma, Majorca.

Here, the lads give us the lowdown on a typical day in the life of an Olympic sailor.


Day in the life of Olympic sailors

Up with the larks - well, 8.30am.

Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes
Our boat is like a Formula One car, we've got a lot of horse power to look after

Stevie Morrison

Stevie - Actually, we don't really need an alarm clock because we don't have to get up that early! Breakfast is about 9am. We live in a one-bedroom apartment out in Palma so it is do-it-yourself.

Ben - He has muesli with fruit in it and I have muesli with chocolate. It's pretty damn tasty.

Stevie - I'm also a bit of a coffee man and we try to have some orange juice, to get the health in early.

In Palma there's no gym or fitness session first. When we're here, we're sailing. We do all the fitness on bikes at home. Two sessions of two-and-a-half hours sailing a day is pretty knackering.

Messing about with boats - 10am

Stevie - Five-minute drive to the boatyard and spend an hour fiddling with the rig. The bend of the mast affects the shape of the sail, which is like the wing on an aeroplane. You can adjust the tension to make it work in different ways.

Stevie Morrison (left) and Ben Rhodes
Morrison (left) and Rhodes won the world championship in 2007 and came second this year

Our boat is like a Formula One car, compared to the family saloon of Ben Ainslie's Finn dinghy. We've got a lot of horse power to look after, so the tuning has to be spot on to make it easier to sail and, crucially, fast.

On the water by 11am. We'll work on starts and boat handling, particularly at really slow speeds.

Then it's tacking and gybing around a small course. It's very demanding, high intensity stuff to drill the basics and take us our of our comfort zone.

We sail as a training group with another British boat, the world number one-ranked German team and an Austrian crew, who were second to us at the worlds last year.

It's a very high standard training group but we work on the theory that you've got to train with the best and back yourself to beat them to stay ahead.

Pitstop, Spanish style - 1.30pm

Stevie - Straight to see Manuel in the supermarket for a baguette. He loves us because Ben has exactly the same every day.

Ben - Chorizo and cheese. The food of champions.

Stevie - I like to vary it. It's either ham and cheese, or tuna! We'll also get some salad in there, for a bit more health.

Ben - Back out at 3pm for a racing-based session, finishing with a mini regatta with other training groups. There might be 15-20 boats.

During a championship the physical side of sailing is not too bad but in training we ramp it up to make it as tough as possible.

It's a really specific type of fitness. I can ride a bike for weeks and weeks and be mega fit but get on a boat and be knackered in two hours.

Ben Rhodes (left) and Stevie Morrison
As well as a huge physical effort, Ben is concentrating as hard as I am on strategy and tactics

Stevie Morrison

Stevie - It's intense, short bursts of energy very often, with no breather. Sailing upwind, he's playing the mainsheet [rope] which controls the mainsail. At the windward mark he's got a six-second explosive burst to hoist the spinnaker, basically a massive sail stuffed into a sock.

If we gybe he has to winch it to the other side and at the bottom mark, we drop the spinnaker. Getting that back into the sock is almost harder. It's another explosive burst and then we round up into the wind. I then simply hand him back the mainsheet.

Put like that it sounds like I've got a pretty cushy job. I'm not as stupid as I look!

Added to all that Ben is concentrating as hard as I am on strategy and tactics and looking at our competitors and the wind.

Ben - It's just never ending.

Cooking up a treat - 7pm

China will be a mouse-in-carpet slippers ballet around the boat

Stevie Morrison

Stevie - Finish sailing about 5-6pm. Check the boat and try to fix anything broken. Then back to our salubrious apartment where I'll cook dinner.

I'm no Jamie Oliver, but I've got quite a chilli in the locker. Or we might have some pasta with fresh pesto. And maybe a bit of broccoli for the health.

It's usually pretty basic stuff such as pasta or rice, although the chilli sometimes gets a bit flowery.

Although it's quite plain food, Rodent [Ben] takes plain food to the next level. He's like, "Pepper eh, what's pepper?" If I don't cook, there's a mega lack of flavour. And I hate washing up.

Ben - We're not on a huge diet but we're conscious of what we're eating. We're lucky in that we are naturally the right weight for our boat, and maybe even a bit light, which helps for China anyway.

Ben Rhodes
Rhodes relaxes by scaling the sea cliffs in Majorca

Stevie - Normally our combined weight is about 148kgs - with Ben 76kg and me 72kg but in China we'll be nearer 140kg (71 and 69). Because it's a light-wind venue it will be more a mouse-in-carpet slippers ballet around the boat.

Ben - In a normal year we spend the whole time trying to stay up to weight. I find eating a bit of a chore and have to force it down. This year's great because I don't have to worry about eating and get to do loads of exercise. I don't mind the gym but I'd rather go climbing or mountain biking.

Stevie - We're also into kitesurfing but we don't bring our kit to Palma. It would be too easy to get distracted and not go training. It's good to get out there even on windy days and get beaten up for an hour. You always learn something.

Winding down - 8pm

Stevie - After dinner we meet our coach for an hour of video and discussion of the day's sailing.

Then we might do some admin - emailing one of our various team "ologists", or sorting out flights and logistics.


On a Champions League night I'll go down the Scouse bar. Soft drinks only, mind.

Ben - I'll stay at home and watch mountain biking or climbing DVDs or play my electric guitar nice and loud. At the moment I'm massively into the John Butler Trio from Australia.

Stevie - I've had to buy some noise-cancelling headphones. Actually, he's pretty good, unlike 470 sailor Nick Rogers, who sounds like he's strangling a cat.

Lights out is about 1030pm for Ben, 1130pm for me. That's why I get the couch and he gets the single room.

Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes were talking to BBC Sport's Rob Hodgetts.

see also
Olympic sailors take World silver
09 Jan 08 |  Olympics
Ainslie among first Olympic picks
08 Jan 08 |  Olympics
Morrison & Rhodes take 49er gold
13 Jul 07 |  Sailing
Team GB for Beijing
29 Nov 07 |  Team GB
Start sailing
14 Oct 05 |  Sailing

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