Greg Searle, Gold Medallist at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, is to join the GBR Challenge Sailing Team

Peter Harrison has announced that Greg Searle, Gold Medallist at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, is to join the GBR Challenge Sailing Team. Searle, 29, who also won a Bronze Olympic medal and seven world championship medals during a prolific rowing career, is joining the British America’s Cup team as a grinder, a position where fitness and power are paramount.

Searle is following the footsteps of another legendary rower, Rob Waddell, who has joined Team New Zealand for their defence of the America’s Cup in 2003.

Harrison outlined the benefits to the programme. “Greg’s record is fantastic and it shows not only his physical and mental strengths, but an ability to perform under pressure. This will be invaluable in the Louis Vuitton Cup in Auckland.

“I’m sure that he will be able to bring an extra dimension to areas of GBR Challenge by importing ideas from his time in rowing. In addition to his physical attributes, fitness and power – I understand that he topped many of the fitness tests last week – he will bring an Olympic rower’s focus to the training regimes.”

Ian Walker, Harrison’s Sailing Manager, commented: “Peter, David Barnes and myself realised at the start of this project that we needed some incredibly powerful and fit athletes to work the grinders on the America’s Cup boats. We decided then that we should explore the option of taking an athlete from outside the sailing world. For the last few months we have been exploring this option, testing athletes from other sports such as rugby and rowing. We are delighted that Greg has decided to join the project.”

Searle outlined why he took the decision and why this might not be the end of his rowing career. “It’s a new challenge that I’m really excited about. Part of the attraction is that there are 18 months to go, which is enough time to prepare properly but it will be a steep and exciting learning curve. The time scale also means that the door is not closed on my Olympic career as I’ll maintain my fitness and could feasibly step into a crew in early 2003 and be ready for Athens in 2004.

He also explained that he’s not on the boat purely as a machine. “I’m really looking forward to learning to sail. It’s not just about grinding, I need to be able to offer more than that and as such my sailing programme will include plenty of time match racing the Etchells that Peter bought as part of the project start-up.”

Searle, who is married with a 10 week old daugher, Josie, will be moving to the south coast to take up his full time post with GBR Challenge. His family will also join him when the team moves to New Zealand.