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Chris ‘Twiggy’ Grube – Team GB’s fittest sailor?

Written by 20th July 2021 Featured-post, Tokyo 2020

The maximum heart rate for the average 34-year-old should be about 185 beats per minute.

Chris Grube, however, is not your average 34-year-old.

Now going to his second Olympics as crew for Luke Patience in the 470, Grube will often hit 195, even 200 beats per minute and over the course of a 45-minute race will be operating at an average of 170bpm.

There aren’t many sports outside triathlon or cycling that demand that kind of intensity for such a duration.

Consider, too, that a 470 regatta will see Grube and Patience doing three races a day, for a week.

Luke Patience Chris Grube

The ‘pumping-allowed’ flag goes up for the 470s in anything above eight knots, so Grube’s job is hardly hanging around on the end the wire.

“I do a lot of cycling,” Grube remarks with a laugh. “The 470 has really changed as a class and the physical training is what takes up most of my time.

“It means that it is a true sport in every sense of the word – physical and mental.

“Everyone’s been pushing it further and you’ll see next summer just how much sailing has changed in the class.”

Grube, known as Twiggy for his wiry frame, was an 11-year-old club dinghy sailor when he watched the 1996 Olympics and decided what he wanted to do in life.

“The thing I remember most was the 470 with John Merricks and Ian Walker. That memory sticks out. I liked the idea of being able to take the sport to its pinnacle.”

Now resident in Hamble, but originally from Chester, his home sailing club was the Snowdonian Bala SC, where he crewed for his father in a GP14 and Fireball.

“I have a lot of very good memories of sailing at Bala. It gave me the love for the sport.

“Having that – those great memories of the simple side of it, the friends you make and the social side of it, just messing around in boats – gives you the drive to then go through the tough times.”

He joined the Welsh squad and moved into Toppers and Lasers.

“Then at university I realised my natural body weight [then] was about 72kgs. I struggled to be competitive in the Laser. I realised if I wanted to do the Olympics I was going to have to be crew in the 470.”

Luke Patience Chris Grube

Maybe Grube drew on his Bala days when he suffered bitter disappointment over selection for London 2012, beaten to the 470 spot by none other than Luke Patience, who at that stage was sailing with Stuart Bithell.

“It was quite a blow to not be selected and hats off to Luke and Stuart – they did an amazing job.

“I had about six months out and I found the fight to do another Olympic cycle was still there.”

Grube is married – Patience was best man at his wedding – and he has a young son.

As we speak he has just returned from a training camp in Portugal and after a few days at home will flying back out there again.

“We are predominantly in a kit-testing phase,” he says. “Masts in particular. We’re pretty set on the manufacturer so it’s long days on the water working on the set-up.

“We are getting to the pointy end of things, but if you look at the America’s Cup, they are always trying to improve on what they’ve got, right up until the last minute.

“We don’t have the same bandwidth, but we are still putting resource and time into making sure we are the fastest out there.”

Grube and Patience showed their class way back in 2006 when they won bronze in the junior 470 worlds.

They parted ways in 2009 but came back together for the Rio Games four years ago under difficult circumstances.

Patience had qualified with Elliot Willis, but had to find a new partner and requalify after Willis was diagnosed with bowel cancer just months before the Games.

Grube stepped in and he and Patience were fifth in Rio.

“We were both proud of what we did in the eight months we had together.”

Amid regatta successes since Rio, they have won Enoshima Olympic Week, the 470 North American Championships and the Miami round of the 2018 World Cup Series.

They were seventh at the recent 470 worlds and will be aiming to podium at least at the Palma worlds in March 2020.

Photo by Karl Bridgeman/Getty Images for British Olympic Association

As for their main rivals, Grube says: “It’s hard to ignore the Australians [Matt Belcher and Will Ryan]. They have put together numerous regatta wins and are the main title contender.

“The Swedes [Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergstrom] have showed form over last three years.

“They are generally good in the light but they have got some cracks and not so good under pressure.

“The Spanish [Jordi Xammar and Nicolas Rodriguez] are the young guns – very high energy, but they’re also quite aggressive.”

Grube has also sailed the 49er and the Moth, both to a high level, and says: “I can’t stress enough to young sailors, your class boat is important to learn, but also just sail with as many different people and classes as you can.

“It was really good for me to do the 49er – I learned a lot about boat handling and being quick. I wouldn’t have been as good a sailor without all that experience.”

He adds: “The longer I am in the sport, the more I realise everyone has the same skills, it’s more about outworking people. It is the amount of effort and energy that you put out that enables you to succeed.”

Grube worked part-time in a factory in his early days to fund the time on the water, but nowadays is National Lottery-funded and has enjoyed the long-term support of healthcare specialist BTG and Volvo cars “to make all of this happen”.

He says: “It’s fantastic to be selected, but of course that is only part of the battle. Now Luke and I want to come back with a medal – ideally the shiniest one.”


First published on Yachts and Yachting

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