From Moths to Maxis to Multihulls, this pro sailor can make any sailboat go a little faster.
While Rob Greenhalgh didn’t officially join North Sails until 2018, he says the company was the first sailmaker he ever heard of. “I’ve always seen North as the biggest brand in the sport,” he says, adding, “and without a doubt, the best product in the sport. I wanted to associate myself with the best brand,” so he’s now based out of the Sydney, AUS loft.
A UK native, Rob learned to sail at age seven from his parents, who were “always into it.” The family lived in Sri Lanka for a few years, and after the Greenhalghs moved back to the UK, Rob stepped onto a 49er for the first time—just as the class joined the Olympic roster. “It was kind of a lucky year, a sort of revolution with asymmetric boats,” he explains. “49ers, then 18-foot skiffs, International 14s.” A lot of his success, he claims, stemmed from “being there in the right place at the right time.”
“Finding time to fit it all in is hard, but I’ve always been a dinghy sailor at heart. I love going back to the grassroots of some simple tactical racing, focusing on boathandling and tacking on small wind shifts and starting well.”
His big break into Grand Prix sailing came when he was invited to join the ABN AMRO team for the 2004-2005 Volvo Ocean Race. “I think we’d just won the 18-foot Skiff Worlds or something like that,” he remembers. “And I was doing a lot of other sailing. That set the scene for the next five Volvo races, and whatever else has happened in between.”
Rob’s impressively varied CV includes a string of podium finishes in various skiffs, as well as one victory and two second place finishes in the Volvo Ocean Race. Halfway through the 2011-12 VOR, he took up Moth sailing to avoid “a mental breakdown,” and he’s since racked up national and European titles in that class while maintaining a hectic racing schedule on the offshore and multihull circuits. “Obviously finding time to fit it all in is hard,” he says. “But I’ve always been a dinghy sailor at heart. I love going back to the grassroots of some simple tactical racing, focusing on boathandling and tacking on small wind shifts and starting well.”
The Moth keeps him current, Rob claims. “There’s so much going on; you’ve got the foiling, which is obviously the big fad at the moment. And the rig technology is pretty important. It’s a very good test platform for ideas and learning about the sport.” It also keeps him close to his roots. “I’m very conscious about not losing touch with being a dinghy sailor, and actually enjoying the sport, rather than just being the mercenary professional.”
A typical week finds Rob out on Sydney Harbour almost every day, in a wide variety of boats. “This last weekend it was a three day regatta on a TP52. Then Monday I did a Moth training session with the squad here. Tuesday we do a little evening racing on the Cup boats, which are Elliot 7s. Wednesday I went sailing with a grand prix client. Today I’ll go Moth sailing again, and tomorrow there’ll be sailing of some description. Then Saturday is another event in the morning, followed by Moth sailing in the afternoon.” May, he says, is “the only quiet-ish month,” because he spends much of Sydney’s off-season competing in the northern hemisphere. This year he’ll take part in the Transatlantic Race and Fastnet—another event where he’s posted a few records in both monohulls and multihulls.
Rob does make time for his favorite hobby. “If I’ve got the day off,” he says, “I’ll definitely go fishing.” But most days, he’s trying to fit in a little Moth training between his many other obligations. “It’s all sorts of sailing, with either North Sails clients or as a professional—here, there, and everywhere.”