This study examined the control of ventilation during repetitive bouts of isometric exercise in simulated sailing. Eight male sailors completed four successive 3-min bouts of similar isometric effort on a dinghy simulator; bouts were separated by 15-s rest intervals. Quadriceps muscle integrated electromyograph activity (iEMG) was recorded during each bout and expressed as a percentage of activity during maximal voluntary contraction (%iEMGmax). From the first to the fourth bout, the 3-min mean averages for ventilation and for %iEMGmax increased from 19.8 (SEM 1.1) to 37.5 (SEM 3.0) l.min-1 and from 31 (SEM 4) to 39 (SEM 4)% respectively; also, ventilation and %iEMGmax over each minute throughout the four bouts were significantly correlated (r = 0.85; P < 0.05). Progressive hyperventilation reduced the mean end-tidal partial pressure of carbon dioxide from 5.0 (SEM 0.3) kPa during bout 1 to 4.3 (SEM 0.4) kPa during bout 4 [37.7 (SEM 2.0) to 32.4 (SEM 3.0) mmHg]. From the first to the fourth bout the end-of-bout blood lactate concentration did not increase significantly although the concentration from the third bout onwards was significantly greater than at rest. The results suggested that the development of muscle fatigue, which was enhanced by the insufficiency of recovery during the 15-s intervals and mirrored in the progressive increase in iEMG, was linked with stimuli causing progressive hyperventilation. Though these changes in ventilation and iEMG could not be associated with changes in blood lactate concentration, they could both have been related to accumulating metabolites within the muscles themselves.