The former England captain and 2009 IRB World Sevens Player of the Year is taking part in the world’s longest ocean race and sets sail from Tower Bridge today.
Nursing a calf injury that he sustained in the build-up to this summer’s Sevens World Cup, far from putting his feet up, Phillips is undertaking a 40,000 mile journey, across six continents – all of which will take 11 months to complete – with the Great Britain team.
As fate would have it, leg one of the race finishes in Rio, where Phillips hopes to be back on the rugby field, guiding Great Britain to gold as Sevens makes its debut at the 2016 Olympics.
Phillips, 30, said: “I severed the nerve in my calf playing while preparing for our World Cup in Moscow and I just thought I need to do something to occupy my time.
“And the transition of being a professional rugby player to suggestions of retirement being thrown at you – I needed that competitive edge and it was a fabulous opportunity and I thought it was a great opportunity.
“Hopefully I will come back from sailing around the world and then will try and go to the Olympic Games – which will be a massive moment for me and I hope my calf will be recovered enough to do that. I’ve been to some fairly tough mental places and emotionally and I think that stands me in good stead for the kind of challenges that will come up
“Being in competitive sport – you want to win and work as a team and be a leader and so forth so I am hoping that will resonate but there are so many challenges that will come up in the race alone.
“I’m just really privileged to be part of it and part of the team GB boat – a huge honour – and hopefully it’s all building towards a big crescendo towards the Olympics.
“I’ve played for my country and captained my country, will have sailed around the world on a team GB boat.
“Lets go win this race and then try and win an Olympic gold in Rio.”
In recent Olympics, Ben Ainslie and co have ensured Britannia have ruled the waves but Phillips is the first to admit that his sailing experience is limited to say the least
“I am honestly absolutely petrified and I haven’t really thought about what I’m doing yet but it’s going to be amazing – the whole adventure – I think it’s going to be so incredibly hard,” he added.
“But I’m looking forward to that challenge because I think mentally that is what it’s all about and then obviously there is going to be a huge self-fulfilment and a sense of achievement and going round the world.
“More people have climbed Everest than what we are about to do – but doing it for the challenge is one of the reasons why I am doing it.
“I don’t think you can ever prepare for it and four weeks is definitely not the best preparation to sail around the world but I think you learn as you go.
“And I’m confident in the fact that I did three weeks sailing back to back so I know the ropes so to speak but the main thing is bonding with my crew as I haven’t really had the time to do that.
“They’re quite a close crew – so I’m hopeful that they will accept me and if they don’t its going to be a long 11 months!”
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