Introducing ORACLE TEAM USA’S Craig McFarlane

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Craig “Oscar” McFarlane has a few things in common with the sailors of ORACLE TEAM USA, Defenders of the 34th America’s Cup. Chief among them: He loves a challenge. Take his background as a prime example–before joining the team, he’d never trained professional sailors, but that didn’t deter him. Now, as Head Athletic Trainer for the team, he’s not only gotten the sailors into the best shape of their lives, but he’s prepared them to compete in a whole new sport, with the demanding new format debuting this year.

This is the first of three interviews with McFarlane. Stay tuned for future installments!

What are you responsible for in your role?

I’m the head athletic trainer for the team. It’s a broad role that includes everything from nutrition to sports medicine, manual therapy, massage, training, and making sure the sailors are structurally healthy.

How’d you go from training rugby players to training sailors?

Growing up in New Zealand, I was really active and involved in a lot of sports. When you play a lot of sports, eventually you have to choose one. Rugby was my passion, along with traveling.

I began working and traveling, first in Australia, then Europe, where I spend eight years in the UK. A friend who was working with the Wellington Lions, a New Zealand rugby club, got me interested in rugby again. I ended up getting a gig in the UK with the Leicester Tigers, which is an English rugby club.

The same contact recruited me for this role. The new format for the America’s Cup was coming up, and I had an interview in Dubai in 2011, during the Louis Vuitton regatta. I didn’t know anyone on the team at the time.  I didn’t know where the Cup was going to be. Six months after my interview, I got a call, and found out it was going to be in San Francisco. I accepted immediately and relocated to San Francisco in April last year.

What would you do if you weren’t head athletic trainer for ORACLE TEAM USA?

Sports medicine in a performance clinic, working with the public.

Why did you want to work with ORACLE TEAM USA?

Challenge. I was inspired to make a difference. With the old format for the America’s cup–racing monohull sailboats–it required only a few guys to be big and strong and powerful. With this new format, and coming from a rugby background, I thought, they’ve all got to be like that, like rugby players. It’s literally a new sport, and it’s a unique challenge–sailing on San Francisco Bay, with the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.

What do you still hope to accomplish in your career?

Whatever sport I finish up in, I’d like to make a difference on a global level.

What’s your personal approach to eating well?

Balance is the key. You are what you eat, but there are times when I don’t do my best just like everyone else. If you have balance, and unless you’re a 100-meter sprinter at the Olympic level, there’s no need to count every last calorie.

You’re a fan of juicing. Do you have a favorite recipe?

Four apples, four carrots, one pear, four handfuls of kale, one cube of ginger, and two celery sticks.

What’s your biggest indulgence?

Chocolate-covered almonds. Is Ted Baker considered an indulgence? I like Ted Baker shirts!

How do you stay motivated when it comes to eating right and working out? What’s harder?

Again, balance. Don’t spend more than an hour in the gym.

What’s your fitness routine like?

It’s not bad, considering how busy I am during the week. I’m in an active job, and I work out with the guys when they come off the water at the end of the day, five to six days a week. I’ll do a weights-based workout one day, and mix it up with cardio and high-rep, light weight exercises.

What’s on your personal playlist when you work out?

Pete Tong radio on Pandora. He’s an iconic DJ, really upbeat stuff. And Pearl Jam.

Who were your sports idols growing up?

The All Blacks, the New Zealand national rugby team. And in cricket, Richard Hadlee.

Who’s your favorite San Francisco Giant?

Buster Posey. The Giants dynamic reminds me of my previous club, the Tigers. It’s a tight group, like family, everyone gets along well.

Have you ever had any serious injuries? How did you bounce back?

I had reconstruction surgery on my ACL.  I can’t run, so I’ll paddleboard or use the grinding machines. If you’re in good shape, at the end of the surgery, you’ll recover quicker. I took care of my body before I got injured. I set a structure and goals around my recovery so I can see my progress. Progress is good, it’s motivating.

Who’s the biggest practical joker on the team?

Joe Spooner–he stuck epoxy glue on the handles of Arnold Lee‘s (our team doctor) brand-new M5!

What keeps you balanced?

I try not to take my work too seriously or take it home with me. I love travel and being around good people. I know my roots, and I pinch myself sometimes.

What’s a typical day like for you?

My alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m. and I get to work by 7:45. I start prepping for gym-related work, have breakfast around 9:00, go to a couple of meetings, and do some paperwork and planning. Then I have lunch, make sure all the fluids and snacks are prepped for the sailors, that lunch is going out on water, and that our chef is on top of things. Everything has to be prepped before the boat goes out. For the guys who don’t go out sailing, I run a cardio workout. For any injured sailors, I adjust their workouts, get their heart rates, upload their data, and note any adjustments for the following day. My day ends around 6:30 or 7:00 p.m. I work out, go home, eat, and juice.

If ORACLE TEAM USA wins the cup, what will you do next?

I’d take three months to go traveling.

Describe your personality in a word.

Game.

What’s something surprising about you that we don’t know?

Pretty much what you see is what you get. But I’m quite spiritual.

If you had a theme song, what would it be?

“Better Man.”

Who inspires you and why?

People who are motivated and driven to succeed. The guy who got me introduced to professional rugby–he epitomized family values, he’s married with four kids, full of integrity, good at sports and business. And my parents, who taught me humility, honesty, and loyalty.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

Don’t die wondering. Embrace life. And don’t get hung up on money!

What’s your favorite San Francisco neighborhood?

SOMA, the Mission, Hayes Valley. I love people-watching.

What’s your favorite San Francisco restaurant?

I like Lolinda and Ozumo.

What’s the best thing about living in San Francisco?

It’s hard to pick one. The accessibility to the water, the food, people-watching. It’s just a hop, skip, and jump to Yosemite, Tahoe, Big Sur–you can do so much in one day.

A few quick questions and some word association–yoga or boxing?

Yoga.

Steak or sushi?

Sushi.

Ben Ainslie…

Legend.

Phillipe Presti…

Silver fox!

New Zealand…

Land of the long white cloud.

Home…

San Francisco.

Author’s Note: Stay tuned for more ORACLE TEAM USA interviews, with insights from Craig McFarlane on keeping the team fit and healthy. Next up: Interviews with sailors Kyle Langford and Ben Ainslie, and team coach Phillipe Presti!

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