Living with a Metabolic Furnace

by Kitchen Ladies


A lot of people don’t realize what is takes to be a professional sailor. Living with one myself, I can attest to the everyday commitment and the toll it takes on the body. As a professional athlete, health and fitness are the core components of the job and they are constantly putting those to the test- you can imagine the wear and tear.

I first started dating my boyfriend, Rome Kirby, when he was on the cusp of embarking on the premier around the world sailing race, the 2011/2012 Volvo Ocean Race – impeccable timing on my part right?

Growing up in the sailing world, with a father who works on the engineering side of these professional sailing teams, I already had experienced a taste of the lifestyle but never knew it from the perspective of the athletes themselves, until I began this global adventure with Rome.

Photo Credit: (top left) Kirsten Ferguson, (top right) Sydney Ferguson, (bottom left) Guilain Grenier, (bottom right) Amory Ross

Photo Credit: (top left and right) Coastal Kitchen, (bottom left) Guilain Grenier, (bottom right) Amory Ross

The Volvo Ocean Race is a grueling eight-month offshore race that takes place every three years and tests the world’s best sailors physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is considered a major feat when one completes the entire thing and returns home in one piece and, at the age of 22, Rome was youngest sailor out of all six teams competing. With restrictions to boat weight, their diets consist mainly of freeze-dried food and daily protein bars. Each leg is about three weeks long and with little nutrients and little access to quality protein, along with lack of sleep and over-exertion of the body, the sailors are practically malnourished and starving for real food each time they step off the boat in assigned ports.

Rome started the race healthy and energized at 208 pounds, but ten countries and 40,000 miles later, he was 182 pounds with low iron and a Vitamin-B deficiency.

The race ended in early July 2012 in Galway, Ireland. For many it was the start of a well-deserved period of rest and recovery. For Rome, it was the beginning of yet another journey that would take him (and me) to San Francisco, California for the 34th America’s Cup where again he would be the youngest sailor on the Oracle Racing Team USA. After relocating, it was full on training for Rome, and though his eating habits and sleeping patterns have become a bit more balanced his physical efforts remain high.

Recently, he wore a heart rate monitor for an entire day at the base (gym session and sailing) and burned upward of 9,000 calories. We joked that I should wear the monitor for an entire day at work – where I sit at a desk – and see if I burn a single calorie.

Since Rome is constantly burning throughout the day, he needs to fuel his body properly in order to maintain a steady weight. This means eating quality foods that are high in calories and a lot of them…tough life!

It’s hard for me, and for anyone living with a boyfriend, to realize you can’t adopt the same eating habits. It’s not always easy sharing so many of my meals with someone who eats everything under the sun! Luckily we’ve found ways to make mealtime work for both of us. During the week, we cook something that both of us enjoy; he will add a steak or plate of pasta to increase calories and volume while I add a sweet potato, salad or zucchini pasta to keep it light. We also both enjoy a morning “Green Drink” and have been reaping the benefits.

Rome’s personal favorite: blueberries, strawberries, baby spinach, carrots, whey protein and water (we’ll be blogging about it later).

Now at a steady 194 pounds with regular blood work again, Rome is happy and healthy, but I definitely wouldn’t discount another Volvo in his future…