Rob Waddell in full flight on the 14m sprint across the AC72.
Rob Waddell well remembers the day he first set foot on the AC72.
“I remember thinking the boat was about as big as it could be and still be sailed by people power. If it was any bigger it would need an engine rather than grinders alone.
“The first day sailing was pretty tough physically and sailing the AC72 is still tough. But once systems were in place and we learned how to work together as a team it got better and better.”
Rob Waddell knows more than a little about fitness, strength and endurance. He’s an Olympic gold medallist in rowing, has won several world championship titles and played top-level rugby. He joined Team New Zealand as a grinder in 2001.
Rob says the AC72 crew have to be more balanced athletes. “The monohulls were about being in one spot and being quite strong. The 72 is a lot more about being a good all-rounder; being fit, being fast, being strong, being agile.
“There are 11 sailing crew on the boat and there are a number of dedicated grinders of which I am one.
”Everyone who sails on the boat knows how physical it really in. And that reality defines our day. We’re at the gym every morning and train twice a day – mornings and afternoons – on non-sailing days. The gym work reflects what we do on the boat; it’s a mixture of speed, strength and agility.”
“On an average sailing day we’re up pretty early to get the boat all set up and ready. The logistics of what we’re doing now is staggering. The boat is so big; it’s a massive beast to handle. More than 30 people are needed to launch it and about the same number are on the water when it sailing.”
The wing has to be lifted and fitted into the boat. It’s the same size as a Boeing 747 wing and takes quite a bit of handling too make sure nothing goes wrong.
“Once we drop the tow we do any system checks and tests and then get into race training – basically learning how to race the boat.
“Those days were very physical and very long because the 30-day rule forced us to get the most out of each day. Typically we didn’t finish putting the boat away until 7pm or 7.30.
Rob recently got another big responsibility in New Zealand sport. He has been appointed Chef de Mission of New Zealand Olympic and Commonwealth Games teams.
He says the timing fits really well with the America’s Cup. “Through to September I will do a little work on the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. The priority is doing this America’s Cup through to September.
“I would really like to win this America’s Cup and we all feel that. This group of guys has been together a long time and it’s about time we stepped up.”