The Routine: Rob Greenhalgh, No 1 world-ranked 18ft-Skiff sailor

I've the easiest job on the boat - I just call the shots
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The Independent Online

Rob Greenhalgh, 24, is ranked the world No 1 sailor of 18ft Skiffs – a three-man sailing boat with a bowsprit. Greenhalgh started sailing young, and by the time he was 12 was competing at Cowes Week. Last year, he won the prestigious Prince of Wales Cup in the International 14s (a two-man racing boat). He has been 18ft-Skiff national champion for three years in a row, and with his crew – bowman Jonny Meers and middleman Dan Johnson – is currently competing in the JJ Giltinan Trophy, the world championships in Sydney, skippering his boat RMW Marine.

What physical attributes do you need for 18ft-Skiff sailing?
It's very different for each of the three people. The bowman has to be very strong to be able to hold the kite sheet, and very fit to be able to drop [take down] the spinnaker. The middleman has to be strong because he holds the main sheet the whole time, and he has to be big. The helmsman's job is physically the easiest job on the boat. The strengths that I need as helm are more mental, because I call all the shots in the race. I have the final say on every move we make.

How do you develop fitness and strength?
I go to the gym regularly, but if you sail a lot you generally stay fit. I've just been in Bermuda for the last three weeks doing the International 14 championships, so I was doing a lot of sailing.

Do you take charge of your team's training schedule?
I trust them. They know what's in store and how important this event is. If they're out of shape it will show very quickly when we go sailing. Jonny Meers, my bowman, broke both his arms in a bike accident last May, so he's had to work quite hard to get his strength back.

So you take your training seriously?
Since I first started sailing 18ft Skiffs, three years ago, every time I go out sailing I am training for the world championships. The JJ Giltinan Trophy is the biggest event in 18ft-Skiff sailing.

What are you doing to prepare for the JJ Giltinan Trophy specifically?
We've been working on fine-tuning the boat, getting her speed up to a suitable level. Over the past few seasons we've been a fraction slower than the Aussies. But this year we have new carbon masts, which make the boat lighter and faster.

Is your diet important?
I don't follow any diet, but I have to keep my weight around 70 kilograms. Weight is very important in sailing. We've been trying to lose a bit recently, about 5kg between the three of us. Because we have the skill to handle the boat now, I think we don't need too much weight.

How do you psych up your team?
On the morning of the race, we get the boat ready together as a team. Then, when we get on the water, we have a little chat about what the wind is doing and what our tactics will be.

How do you unwind after training or after a big event?
Obviously, you get lashed! Seriously though, it's a tricky one, because you can't do that in the middle of a big event; you have to find other ways to amuse yourself. We would have won last year, but our bowsprit broke twice. This year? Not that confident yet. Better see what our speed is like when we get out there.

The J J Giltinan Trophy Championship started in Sydney yesterday and continues until 13 January