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Oliver Tweddell: the Australian sailor who won’t give up

WE TALK to Australian Oli Tweddell about his passion for sailing and his determination to make it to the Olympics in Tokyko after narrowly missing out on a place at Rio.

Oliver Tweddell

Oli Tweddell has been sailing since the age of four and with the support of his family has become an Olympic hopeful for Australia in the sport.


OLI TWEDDELL started sailing in the UK when he was four years old. When he moved to Australia he pursued his passion for the sport and has gone on to become an Olympic hopeful who narrowly missed out on a place at Rio this year.


In this exclusive interview Oli talks to us about his passion for the sport and how he has progressed to become an Olympic hopeful through hard work and the support of his family. Read on to learn about his determination to make it Tokyo 2020 and the challenges he’ll face in the year ahead.


When did you start sailing and how hard was pursuing your passion for the sport in England?

I first started sailing when I was four years old in England, on the river Cam.  It started off as a bit of fun, and started to get more serious as I got a bit older.  Most people think the temperature would have been the hardest thing to deal with when sailing in England and while I admit it wasn’t that warm, the hardest part for me was living so far from the sea. This meant I could only sail on weekends, and it took a massive sacrifice from my family carting me around the country to train and compete.


Oliver Tweddell

Oli started out sailing in the UK before he moved to Australia where he continued to progress in the sport. Photo: Copyright Beau Outteridge:


Who were your biggest supporters and mentors when you started out and when did you get your first taste of success in competitions?

My biggest supporters have been, and always will be my family. My mum (Alison), dad (Paul), sister (Grace) and grandparents have been with me on the journey from the very beginning, and continue to support me no matter what.


My mentor Chris Dare, has also been very influential in my sailing, not only teaching me a few tips on the water, but also helping with managing the campaign, and offering advice when it is needed.  I was always too big for the boats I sailed, so it took me a little longer to start winning than most, but I won my first Nationals when I was 12 years old, and really enjoyed being the best in the country in that boat.  That was when I really knew I wanted to have that feeling again, and be the best in the world.

What was it like moving to Australia at such a young age and what did living in Melbourne do in terms of aiding your sailing career?


When my family moved to Australia I was 15, it was right before my GCSE’s in England, and I joined Mentone Grammar in term 4 of year 10.  It wasn’t the easiest of transitions, initially for my family and I, starting off in a new country with new school, jobs, and all the complications that came along with the relevant visas.  Fortunately Australians are great people and very friendly, and we settled into life nicely after that, we were welcomed into the community and have made some great friends.


In terms of my sailing, living five minutes away from Sandringham Yacht Club meant I could go straight from school to the bay and go sailing, it was amazing, after having only been able to sail two days a week, I was now able to sail everyday, and I did just that!!


The hardest part of this move was that I had gone from being in the British National Team with coaching, to being a Pom in Australia. This meant I didn’t have any access to coaching (sailing by yourself is tough enough as it is), and had to be self coached for five years until I became Australian and was able to access the coaching from the Victorian Institute of Sport.  I feel this made me a very resilient and resourceful person, and has enabled me to be very critical of my own sailing, which I continue to do every session.


Oliver Tweddell

Oli’s goal for the next four years is to prepare himself for a place at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.


When did you realise that you were suited best to becoming a Finn sailor and could you tell us what its like being in command of that type of boat?


I always knew I would end up in a Finn, even when I was sailing Optimists.  I became too big for the optimist when I was nine years old, and most kids stay in them until they are 14 or 15, so it was always on the cards.


The Finn is without a doubt the most physically demanding dinghy in the world. There are many aspects that make it such a great class to sail.  We are able to tweak the boat a lot within tolerances, very similar to F1 cars, to try to maximise its speed, handling and overall performance for different conditions.  The boat requires a lot of physicality when it is windy, and yet a great amount of finesse when it is light winds. But the hardest part by far is the free pumping downwind, this is pretty much a maximum effort where you are using your whole body to row the sail, with your heart rate sitting over 190bpm for ten mins twice a race, and in two to three races a day it is very, very tough on the body.  The hard work is definitely worth it though, once you get the boat surfing along a wave and it just goes light and takes off, it’s such an exhilarating feeling!


Oliver Tweddell

To find out more about Oli visit Photo: Copyright Beau Outteridge:


You’re now focussed on making it to the Olympic Games in Tokyo. How will you ensure you make it there and tell us about some of the training you have planned?


Obviously I am gutted I lost the selection for Rio, but I have taken some time off to reflect on what worked well, and what could have gone better in the campaign.


For the 2020 campaign, I have already started to raise funds to purchase important equipment (unfortunately it can be quite expensive at the top end), but more importantly setting up a free flowing training group, with world class sailors as training partners for the four years will definitely make the difference. I will do a lot of training camps in Europe, New Zealand, Tokyo and Australia, with a lot of on-water training, but also a big compliment of weights and cardio sessions.


What events and races will you be competing in over the next four years and do you have any particularly exciting projects in the pipeline?


I will be taking part in the World and European Championships in the Finn class over the next four years, as well as the World Cup Circuit each year. I also am fortunate enough to be on an SB20 Program competing at the World Championships each year, as well as on a 100-year-old classic boat called Rowdy, taking part in the classic boat series in Europe.  


Find out more about Oliver on his website:

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