It has been a whirlwind year for Robert Greenhalgh, very few sailors can have competed in such a huge variety of events and boats over the last 12 months. Most of which would definitely be on the New Year’s wish list, for anybody with a passion for yacht racing.
“At the start of the year I decided that I was going to diversify and learn as much as I can about certain aspects of the sport,“ commented Rob. “But I can honestly say that I have always raced for the love of it, that is what motivates me. In this sport, the guys who stick around and succeed do it because they have a real passion for racing. I thrive on the diversity of racing different boats and classes, it really helps with my development as a sailor. ”
Greenhalgh started the year down under racing skiffs with Phil Harmer and Dan Johnson, including the International 14 Worlds and 18 foot skiff worlds, both in Sydney.
“We knew that our lack of preparation was a big weakness but I chose to go because there is some truly magnificent racing in these classes. Losing the rudder was the show-stopper in the 14s, but it is always nice to go for a swim in Manly Harbour! I guess we were a little disappointed with our final results but it is a cracking way to start the year and skiff racing gives you such a rush, I like to have a big grin and in Sydney there were plenty of those.
Early in the year, Rob joined up with Alex Jackson’s Melges 32, Leenabarca calling tactics at Key West and the SORC in Miami. Greenhalgh had sailed with Alex Jackson on his magnificent 100 ft Maxi Speedboat and they had planned out a full season, hoping to peak at the World Championships later that year.
“The Melges 32 is a really physical ride, blasting downhill on the edge of control is a real buzz and Alex is always a lot of fun to race with, we performed well in Miami but it was all about building for the season and winning the East coast Championship in April was a real boost to the campaign.”
Come April, Rob also turned his hand to keelboat sailing, as tactician on Anthony O’Leary’s Ker 39, Antix. Greenhalgh was instrumental in the early part of the campaign, which saw the Irish lift the Rolex Commodores’ Cup for the first time but Rob was not part of the race team for the win.
“Anthony O’Leary and his team were a pleasure to sail with, like me they are deeply passionate about the racing and I was absolutely thrilled for them, I know how much effort and commitment they put in to win the trophy.”
June was a busy month for Rob and a time when he had to make a difficult decision. Greenhalgh was all set to go for his third Volvo Ocean Race after rejoining Ken Read’s PUMA Ocean Racing Team but he decided to pull out of the team.
“The PUMA team started training for the next race in early June and it just didn’t seem right. I didn’t feel comfortable with it, the Volvo Ocean Race is all consuming; it takes over your life for two years and I am the kind of person who does something 100% or not at all. I decided that it was best to get out early and look at other possibilities. I have the deepest admiration for Kenny (Read) and all of the team and I am sure they will have a great race, but I have decided to move on.”
Greenhalgh left the highly professional ocean racing team and applied himself, whole-heartedly to Oman Sail’s Tour de Voile programme. Greenhalgh had started training with the team several months before the grueling month long race around France. The team included five young Omani sailors, with little sailing experience, let alone offshore in a Farr 30.
“The Tour de Voile is a fantastic event and working with Oman Sail promised to deliver everything that I love about sailing. It was a tough challenge with many twists and turns, the project was something that I really want to get involved in. I felt that I could use all that I have learnt and am passionate about. The young Omani sailors were inexperienced but their drive and commitment made me proud to be part of their development. We set out to come in the top five and achieved that, even after a really bad start to the event. Next year, we will compete again and with the new boat, it should be a much more level playing field, I am fully committed to racing with Oman Sail next year.”
After the Tour de Voile, Rob returned to big boat sailing, calling tactics on Johnny Vincent’s TP52, Pace, at Copa del Rey and the TP52 Worlds, before heading to San Francisco for the largest ever entry for the Melges 32 World Championship. A good early start put Alex Jackson’s Leenabarca in with a chance of a major win, against a galaxy of stars but they faded in the latter stages to claim 6th in a very talented fleet.
‘Having my brother Peter, Chris Draper and Phil Harmer on the crew, really stoked up the boat speed and tactical calls but a few mistakes cost us big time. 6th was a fairly good result in a fleet of that class but I still feel we can improve and I am keen as mustard to better our achievements.”
Earlier in the year, Greenhalgh had been tactician on Mike Slade’s 100ft Maxi, ICAP Leopard, taking line honours for the JP Morgan Round the Island Race. In September, Rob was back on board the magnificent Maxi for Les Voiles de St.Tropez and the Rolex Middle Sea Race.
“There are many similarities, these days between big boats and skiffs, both run asymmetric sail programmes and behave in similar ways. The big difference comes when its offshore and things change tactically for the bigger picture, but even then, an offshore race can be broken down into stages, just like a skiff regatta is a series of races over several days.
To be honest, the biggest influence on why I sail with Johnny Vincent’s or Mike Slade’s team is that they run a professional programme with excellent crew and have a great attitude on board. It is a lot easier to enjoy your racing when you are winning but to do well consistently, you have to have a good spirit, driving on that will to win. For me, it’s a passionate obsession. I love to win but I love to sail even more.”
In 2010, Robert Greenhalgh clocked up nearly 150 days of racing in an extra-ordinary variety of boats, all over the world. You may have thought that after spending that amount of time afloat Greenhalgh may well have opted for a ski-ing holiday to chill-out, but you would be wrong.
“BVI’s - cruising with Leslie and our good friends, Jerry and Becky Eplett, ” grinned Rob, “I packed a couple of t-shirts and a spare pairs of shorts, I like to travel light but I did take three rods and the bait box was a bit heavy with some new lures. As far as sailing goes, for 2011 I hope to put into practice the lessons I learnt this year and concentrate my sailing to specific events and as always. Enjoy my sailing.”