Britain’s Rob Greenhalgh is one of the most experienced Ocean Race sailors out there, with five circumnavigations under his belt. The British all-rounder is sought-after by all the top professional sailing teams, renowned for squeezing that little bit of extra speed from Moths, multi-hullls and maxis. As an experienced crew member of the 11th Hour Racing Team, he will be relied upon for his race acumen in the next edition of the The Ocean Race.
His experience in The Ocean Race includes ABN Amro I in the 2005–06 Volvo Ocean Race, Puma for Puma Ocean Racing Team in the 2008–09 Volvo Ocean Race, Azzam for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in the 2011–12 Volvo Ocean Race and MAPFRE in the 2014–15 and 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race.
With the introduction of the IMOCA Class into the Ocean Race, we can expect a whole new perspective on racing around the planet, with many added benefits for the fans.
RG: It’s true what they say: once you’ve done one race, you’re part of it and it’s part of you. You want to go back again and again. It’s not just about the winning, it’s about performing as well as you can. The last few races in particular have been amazing – the competition was so intense and the challenge of it draws you in. That’s why I’m really looking forward to getting back to it next year, especially to do it with a crew like 11th Hour Racing Team which has a dual mission – not only to win the Race but also to be racing with purpose through our commitment to sustainability.
Q: Obviously your experience is a huge asset that you bring to the team. What’s the absolute biggest lesson you’ve learned in your five previous ocean races?
RG: I’ve found that being prepared and asking the tough questions gets you the results. You have to ask yourself: are you doing this the best way you possibly can? And you have to be honest with yourself. It’s a long race, you can make adjustments if you need to, but you’re only going to be able to do that if you ask questions and challenge yourself over and over again.
RG: Obviously winning that first one back in 2006 was special. It was my first race, too, so that sticks in my mind, of course. And then the last two races in the one design format have been incredible with such close racing. The race in 2017-18 in particular had an incredible finish. We were half a mile from winning. The Race has so many memorable moments though and each leg is so eventful. There are phenomenal people you meet in the race and going to so many places is always special. It’s a great job to have.
Q: What is your experience with IMOCA sailing or other classes that might have similar characteristics to the foiling IMOCA?
RG: I’ve done two transatlantic crossings now, the first being the delivery from Brazil at the end of the Transat Jacques Vabre in 2019 and then this year we delivered the boat back to France from Newport, RI after an extensive training session this Fall. I also did a bit of IMOCA sailing a few years ago with Mike Sanderson. The first Volvo 70s I sailed a decade ago were derived from the IMOCA 60 with the twin rudders but now it’s all about the foiling though, and I bring a lot of experience in that, with Moths and multihulls.
Q: What’s it like sailing on these latest edition IMOCA 60s?
RG: It’s very tricky and uncomfortable as these boats are designed for solo sailing and we had six people on board. It is cramped, both down below and in the cockpit and it’s very difficult to get any rest at all.
Q: As you mentioned, 11th hour racing team is trying to win the ocean race, but is also committed to engaging and inspiring sailing fans about issues of sustainability and ocean health. What are you most passionate about when it comes to caring for our planet?
RG: For me, it’s all about the ocean. I’m a sailor and the ocean is where we race our boats and spend our time. It’s our duty to take care of it – we can’t just be ‘users’ of the oceans, we have to be citizens of them and it is our responsibility to protect them.
Q. What are you most looking forward to working with Mark, Charlie and this team on in this upcoming campaign?
RG: I’ve known both Mark and Charlie both for years. They’re great at putting sailors in roles that complement their skills, and they never micro-manage. They’re both real leaders. We all really admire their passion for ocean health and sustainability. From educating kids to inspiring fans to engaging with stakeholders, they have a comprehensive plan to instil change for the benefit of our planet and it is exciting to be part of that.
Q: The new IMOCA Class requires less sailors than the VO65s, making the crew selection all that more important. When it comes to the 11th Hour Team, where do you see your strengths/skills contributing the most to the team dynamic and sailing performance?
RG: I think the smaller team suits me well. I’m a pretty well-rounded sailor with a large amount of ocean racing experience. I can certainly make the boat go fast with a small crew which is a benefit I can bring to the team.