“My dream has always been to make sailing my living, I feel like now I’ve really achieved part of what I set out to do. But it’s just the start, I need to keep training hard and working hard to fulfil this position.”
- Who inspired you to start sailing? My Brother
- First boat? Topper
- First sailing Club? Pevensey Bay Sailing Club, Eastbourne
- What do you love most about sailing? It’s always different every time you go out there, no day is the same
- What has sailing taught you? Its taught me to view things differently. For example, view problems as challenges not setbacks
- Favourite ever sailing race? Cascais Extreme Sailing Series 2018, we had some awesome race days with 20+ knots and super flat water. Finishing on the podium was a great feeling too.
- How do you keep going when you're on the limit?By focussing on the task in hand
- Career highlight? Being selected for the Rebels sailing internship at INEOS TEAM UK
- Best advice? Set yourself regular goals and make sure you enjoy what you are doing!
- What other sports do you play? I enjoy getting out on my bike I also play a bit of golf occasionally
- Funniest team-mate? Freddie Carr
Oli Greber is one of the young guns at the forefront of British sailing. Through his hard work, dedication and commitment he earnt a place in the British America’s Cup team’s youth programme, INEOS Rebels UK, and has recently been promoted to a full-time sailing intern, embedded within the senior team.
Oli started sailing around six years old at Pevensey Bay Sailing Club, although he first stepped foot in a boat in a small pond near his home town in Eastbourne. His first boat was a small blue Topper dinghy and he soon released he had a real passion for racing. His talent was spotted and he quickly progressed through the RYA Junior and Youth Programme, first the Zone Squad followed by the National Youth Team, regularly competing at nationwide events. “When you’re a child you don’t really think about the future or what you are going to do but as I got older I started to realise I was really passionate about sailing and wanted to do it as my career.
“I was quite sporty at school, I played rugby and a little bit of football, I also enjoyed cycling and generally keeping fit but for me sailing offered something that other sports didn’t. It’s such a broad sport with a lot of variables and I love being on the water.”
Moving on from Toppers, aged 14, like every young sailor he was forced to plot his next course. The options were either the single-handed Laser dinghy or the double handed high performance 29er skiff. “I basically decided that as I wanted something fast and exciting, I would move in the direction of skiffs or catamarans, so I sailed different classes of multihulls and I went on to have quite a lot of success on two hulls; I won two Youth National Championships and won a bronze medal at the 2013 ISAF Youth Worlds."
2013 was also the year the 34th America’s Cup was held in San Francisco Bay in much bigger (72-foot) fast, foiling catamarans. It was a time of change for sport, which also had a big influence on many young British sailors, including Oli. “The AC34 was just incredible to watch on TV - seeing these giant 72-foot foiling boats blasting around the Bay. I was 16 at the time and that was probably my first exposure to the Cup. After my A-Levels, I joined Portsmouth University knowing that the British team had a base in the City and that was my first experience of what a Cup team looked like – the scale of the building alone blew me away.
“Because of my passionate for sport I chose to study Sports Science at University, it was a broad and interesting course but my real passion was still sailing and competing so I did as much as I could alongside studying. Sometimes it was difficult to balance both - doing the training alongside getting the assignments in - but I didn’t want to stop racing.”
In 2014 he first raced on a foiling boat, a ‘Flying Phantom’ at the Red Bull Foiling Generation. “That was an awesome event for me, it opened my eyes to the speed and power of foiling boats. It’s a totally different style of sailing.”
Two years later, early 2016, Britain’s entry for the 35th America’s Cup launched a Youth Academy programme (later to become INEOS Rebels UK), with the long-term goal to find and support talented young British sailors and progress them into the senior Cup team. The timing was perfect. “The INEOS Rebels programme really interested me, I applied and was selected for a number of fitness and sailing trials. That really was the stepping stone for me in my sailing career, I had come out of my youth sailing and had to make the decision of whether to go down the Olympic campaign route or big boat sailing. The new programme offered a great pathway into the America’s Cup environment and it came along at just the right time.”
The team entered their youth squad into the global Extreme Sailing Series and Oli raced onboard as bow. Alongside their sailing development they focused heavily on mentoring the young sailors, with senior team members supporting the young team. “Our coach Walshy [Andrew Walsh] was a huge support to me and played a big part in my development. We were also lucky to have Leigh [McMillan] helm for the Rebels in the 2018 season and Ben [Ainslie], Giles [Scott] and Joey [Newton] joining us for a couple of events. They all brought a huge amount of experience to the team which was invaluable for us young guys.”
Oli graduated from Portsmouth with a 2:1 in the summer of 2018 and for the first time was able to commit to sailing and fitness 100%. He continued to race with the INEOS Rebels on the ESS and at the end of 2018 was one of only two sailors chosen to become full-time sailing interns, becoming embedded within the senior Cup team. “It’s already been a big physical transformation for me. In my youth classes I had to be fairly light and do a lot of cardio work so I had a limited strength and weight training background, I never lived the ‘training’ lifestyle as such. Coming into the Rebels I was only 76 kilos, so over the past three years I’ve needed to put on some weight and get a lot stronger.
“We have fantastic support here with the team, I now have a structured training programme – I will need to be able to produce a lot of power on the boat, I’ve already put on around 15 kilos and there’s been a lot of hours of training in the gym to get where I am now! The youth team was set up as a pathway into the senior America’s Cup team and that was something that was always at the back of my mind – to be at the forefront and try and be the fittest of them all.
“Fitness tests are a big part of what we do, it gives you a marker of where your training is at and how well it has been going. They are gruelling, you don’t get used to it, but you get used to pushing yourself hard and finding new limits.
On being selected to join the team. “I am totally over the moon to be selected to join the senior team full team, I’ve put a lot of work in over the past few years, I feel like I have achieved quite a lot. My dream has always been to make sailing my living, I feel like now I’ve achieved part of what I set out to do. Being in this environment has given me a lot of exposure to a professional race team but it’s just the start of what’s to come really, I need to keep training hard and working hard to fulfil this position.”