America’s Cup: Meet the Freak

Published on May 2nd, 2017

During the America’s Cup World Series, Antiguan Louis Sinclair would be listed as the bowman. But in this report, Sinclair is now the engine behind Oracle Team USA’s chance at a third-straight America’s Cup.

You might consider your workweek a “grind.” But for Louis Sinclair, he’s literally grinding each and every day.

Sinclair begins his job’s version of a morning meeting with the grinding test. Gripping his hands on either side of a stationary machine, he pushes one arm forward, the other following closely behind — a movement similar to that of legs on a bicycle.

His heart rate, already elevated from anticipation of what’s to come, increases tenfold. Beads of sweat begin to form. The movements are still continuous, but his face betrays the effort involved. The motion is less than easy. One minute down — and 19 increasingly painful minutes to go …

For the past year, he’s visualized this test. And now it’s finally here. This test will determine the starting lineup for Oracle Team USA’s America’s Cup team. It’s the single biggest moment of Louis Sinclair’s sailing career.

Sinclair is a grinder — one of Oracle Team USA’s top grinders, to be exact. It’s a position three other teammates share while aboard the America’s Cup Class foiling catamaran. Their job is to provide the skipper and wing trimmer enough power to be able to maneuver and fly the carbon-fiber boat close to airborne for the entire 20-minute race.

Since Sinclair’s position on the flying catamaran is synonymous with being “the muscle,” he needs to be strong. He can bench 330 pounds and dead squat 440. But that alone isn’t good enough. He must be quick and efficient.

During a maneuver, like a tack, the crew sprints across a slippery trampoline and hops back into place to start yet another 90-second grind. During a typical 25-minute race, a grinder burns more than 550 calories. His heart rate will be operating above 85 percent max for about 94 percent of the race.

You might think the reward for such strenuous exercise is a pint or two of Ben and Jerry’s chocolate ice cream (Sinclair’s favorite), but that just won’t cut it. Sinclair must eat between 4,000 and 5,000 calories a day to sustain all his efforts.

Two breakfasts and two dinners filled with lean protein and carbs fuel the ultimate machine he’s become. With a lean eight percent body fat and an incredible lung capacity, Sinclair is a cross between Aquaman and George of the Jungle.

“I didn’t exactly dream of being a grinder,” the 25-year-old Sinclair says. He grew up on the tiny Caribbean island of Antigua and, despite being surrounded by water, he never imagined he’d be an America’s Cup sailor.

For Sinclair, sailing was just an after-school activity, not a profession. Through fishing, diving, sailing and wild-honey retrieving (which takes athletic ability), Sinclair naturally excelled at sports.


But at 17, he made the decision to become a pro sailor and, rather quickly, checked off 10 crossings on Leopard, a Hobart-to-Sydney race on unfathomably fast Comanche and a winning Cape Horn-rounding leg in the Volvo Ocean race with Team Abu Dhabi. It’s safe to say Sinclair got around … the world, that is.

“I’ve gotten really lucky,” Sinclair says. “But even with the good, there come challenges. Sticking it out has always been a mindset I have.”

Sure, a career in pro sailing was his idea, but it was his natural athletic talent that led him to where he is today.

“Louis Sinclair is a freak … in a good way,” head trainer Craig McFarlane says. “He’s got an incredible aerobic capacity and is highly competitive. Even if we aren’t testing or training, he finds a way to turn the activity into a competition. He once spent hours and hours practicing ping pong just so he could kick anyone’s ass who tried to go up against him.”

It was that competitive nature that won him the title of “Best Grinder” in the America’s Cup Grinding Challenge earlier this year.

With racing later this month for the 35th America’s Cup, OTUSA’s Louis Sinclair is all business, all the time (with the occasional spearfishing excursion). Following the infamous grinding test, Sinclair placed first in the anaerobic repeatability test (in a team of 14) and fourth in the aerobic. This means he’ll now officially be on the starting line going head-to-head with five additional sailing teams.

“I’m glad that’s over, but the real test is the racing,” Sinclair says. “I definitely feel like I can compete at my best because I’ve been pushed by the best. Without them pushing me every day, I probably would’ve given up after about five minutes — which is the most grueling part.”

Background: The 35th American’s Cup has attracted six teams (5 challengers and 1 defender) that will compete in the new 15-meter AC Class, with a series of qualifiers beginning on May 26, 2017 that lead to the start of the America’s Cup Match on June 17, 2017. Complete schedule.

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