The European Sailing Academy in Gran Canaria, Spain, is a growing community of trainers and athletes focused on winning Laser Standard sailing championships around the world. The sailing center is the headquarters of Támas Eszes, Boglarka Tóth, and her brother, Mátyás Tóth, the Hungarian trio in charge of everything related to athlete management, coaching, and training.
Támas is the sailing coach, Boglarka is the athlete logistics manager, Mátyás is the fitness coach.
They started small, as with most dream-project ventures, with a micro-community driven by the passion for professional Laser Standard sailing. Over the course of more than a decade, the micro-community eventually developed into a well-established sailing training center for the best in this breezy sport.
“We started with very young athletes 12 years ago, mainly girl athletes, and tried to develop personalized sailing training programs. The girls became very successful, we started to win a lot of European and World youth titles and three of our athletes: Karachaliou Vasileia from Greece, Pujol Bajo Christina from Spain and Kumanan Nethra from India have also come to participate at the Tokio Olympics in 2021. We grew together to be known worldwide.” → Boglarka
The European Sailing Academy have set up the training base in Gran Canaria to spend about 6 months training during winter and the other 6 months participating in the summer regatta season over the world. Every month during summer the team travels to a different Laser Standard sailing event together with the athletes to outperform the competition.
The weather in the Canary Islands during winter training is very welcoming, perfect for sailing. In sailing, the water must not be colder than 15 degrees, because the athletes spend a lot of time in the water from a young age which can lead to injuries if they are too cold. The wind is also an advantage in Gran Canaria, it’s quite stable so they can easily calculate and plan the days according to the wind. They can train all season long and be ready for regatta season in the summer.
“We have won all the titles in this specific sailing class, the Laser class. We are specialized in training sailors for this very particular category. The Laser category is the biggest fleet in the world, also the biggest competition at the Olympics. We love Laser sailing because it’s pure sailing – one boat, one design for everyone – so it’s not the money that dictates the outcome of a competition, it’s the athlete’s sailing skill and endurance. One design for the boat means that we cannot improve anything about the boat. This also makes the sport a lot cheaper because you can rent a boat if you don’t buy one, or you don’t need to transport your boat across the world to participate in a championship, you can rent on location.” → Támas
The trio’s dream was to develop both a top performance training method, also an athlete management program to facilitate access to every major event in sailing. Their season program consists of daily training stages with resting periods. They focus on every aspect of training, from sailing sessions, fitness training, nutrition, resting, psychological prepping, and strategy.
Támas Eszes (born June 18, 1976) is a Laser Standard sailor from Hungary who competed in two consecutive Summer Olympics for his native country (Atlanta, Sidney). Támas has been a sailing coach for over 12 years, currently, he is the leader and head coach of his team the European Sailing Academy Gran Canaria, hosting training camps in the Canary Islands at his sailing base. Several nations (Switzerland, Phillippine, Canada, Lithuania, France, Greece, India, Spain) qualified for the Tokio 2020 Olympic Games in Laser Radial class following Tamas’s coaching program between 2016-2021. His starting mission was to train individual athletes with a team of professionals in order to bring the best results, maybe even a future Olympic medal.
“Laser class sailing is a very popular and unique sport, also quite physical. The body moves the boat, you have to be very athletic, nimble and lightweight. You need sailing skill and quite a lot of power, it’s a difficult sport. Water is a neutral element, it does not favor any sailor, it will challenge each individually. Athletes must judge the wind, waves and current in a split second and prepare their strategy to ride the water. Racing a boat swiftly is a challenging task and requires good technique and fitness. Athletes need to make bold decisions and manoeuvres to complete the race. They are not just competing against other sailors, they are competing against wind and water, the most challenging elements.
There are a lot of ways we teach the necessary skills and techniques. We do a lot of video shooting and video analyzing during training. After every training session we have one hour of video analysis to monitor closely the body movements and the handling of the boat. The fitness coach shares information about the muscles involved during sailing to add some extra power to the boat, we look for small improvements that can make a big difference.
We are always trying to innovate, to figure out new techniques tailored to every sailor. Our program is very diverse and scientific. We start with an MRI scan before training to find potential problems and hidden injuries. The medical approach is much more important than just training because we can tailor the program according to the athlete.
Laser sailing can be stressful on the athlete’s back, sailors usually have lower back problems. It is important that young sailors start training with their lower back and core muscles to hold the upper body, to support their development in the future. Endurance training for the legs and arms is also mandatory, also balance training. You need to give a lot of effort to the boat so your movements need to be efficient.
Given that Laser class sailing is a one boat design class and 8 different companies build the boats, the design is the same. Nobody is allowed to modify anything. The boat has the same speed. The speed difference is in how you sail, how you balance the boat, and how much extra power you can give the boat to ride the waves with your body.”
Readiness training: Always ready, always testing and measuring, evaluating and improving.
The European Sailing Academy program is specialized in readiness training, a method based on measuring certain performance indicators to determine how much the body should recover to sustain future progress.
This method can give an index of the athlete’s shape and performance levels. The method can predict fitness problems or a possible vulnerability, it can also show the athlete is fully engaged for performance. Readiness training means that the trainers can know the athlete’s status early enough to avoid problems, also to treat and alleviate when necessary.
“If you are not measuring, you are guessing. How can you plan your daily or weekly training if you do not evaluate constantly? We have an online platform that connects with our athletes and they can report their progress and their readiness indicators. We can follow and track the progress, the fitness coach can develop a tailored fitness plan.
We use an application to monitor fitness indicators to measure the readiness index. The application provides accurate biological measurements based on heart rate variability. The athletes measure the heart rate every morning, the quality of their sleep, they give us their training notes. The application calculates an index number of readiness to see how much we can push them for the training.
A low readiness index does not mean the athlete will underperform, it just means the athlete’s body will take longer time to wake up and get into the best shape. This way we can determine the best type of warm-up necessary. During the competition or prior to the competition, stress can lower the readiness indicators, but that doesn’t mean the body is not ready to perform to capacity.
Readiness training is a scientific approach to training from a physical perspective with the main objective to balance effort with recovery. In today’s very competitive sport, the athletes who have a team and doctor behind who can follow the metrics can recover quicker because they know when they need to rest.
High-level athletics means that you don’t only have to beat your competitors, you need to beat yourself, you need to do more than yesterday. This is the hardest thing. If you want to do this to your body, you need to shut down the voice in your brain first. The brain will be first to give up.
The readiness indicators will show that when an athlete will lose their drive to train because they “think they are tired”, their body is actually indicating they should keep going forward and train harder to reach another benchmark of performance.
Some athletes will tell you the opposite – they ”don’t need to rest, they’re here to train and keep going”, but their readiness indicator will recommend two days of good rest for recovery. Mentally, they want to over-push, but physically they need to stop.” → Támas
Reaching a balance between being ready and recovery with HBOT .
For Támas, recovery is one of the most important factors in training. To be ready for competition, the athlete needs to bell well-rested. That’s the main reason the Sailing Academy training program also includes mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions for recovery. After every training program, athletes will undergo a mild HBOT session within an OxyNova 5 hyperbaric chamber in order to supplement oxygen levels in the blood and speed up the recovery process.
“Before Covid-19, athletes from more than 30 nations were training with us in Gran Canaria just to use our sailing academy and facilities and to train with our full time team and our coaches. We helped the athletes individually or worked with entire national teams.
During the first waves of Covid-19 some of our athletes contracted the virus and recovered, yet when we took some blood tests to evaluate the athlete’s biological levels we found out that those who had Covid-19 had lower oxygen levels in their blood.
This is where we turned to OxyNova Hyperbaric chambers for recovery and we’ve used them ever-since. Low oxygen levels lead to low performance because the heart is overworking and gets tired quickly.
Our mission was to bring the athletes back to normal performance. It’s how we found OxyNova Hyperbaric and started working with hyperbaric chamber on-site to bring more oxygen in the blood. Now we do HBOT sessions regularly for athlete recovery.
Given the ever-changing Covid-19 situation, we need to keep training even though we never know if some regatta will be cancelled or postponed, our aim is to be ever-ready.” → Támas
The European Sailing Academy is an open application program for very young sailors and also for seasoned professionals. You will find full-time sailors living on the base for undetermined periods, including part-time sailors who come to training camp for particular events. If you wish to know more information, connect with them on Instagram or visit their website.
“We are an independent team, we accept athletes from any country, whether they are or not supported by their national association. We have our own methods, systems and yearly programs for the sailors to participate at the most important events. We prepare each athlete for performance timing for small events like local regattas, or for the biggest events like European and world championships and the Olympics.” → Boglarka