From England rugby Captain to seasoned sailor, Ollie Phillips completes 360’ Clipper Race transformation

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Professional sportsman Ollie Phillips was almost unrecognisable when he returned to London’s St Katharine Docks after almost a year at sea on the GREAT Britain boat. Having never sailed before starting his race training less than a year ago, the professional rugby player returned to St Katharine Docks with over 40,000 nautical miles under his belt, as a proficient and talented ocean racing sailor. The sporting transition was not his only transformation however.

Following a bet with his team mate Paul Hardy, Ollie decided not to trim his beard, growing some serious facial foliage over the duration of the race, in order to raise funds for Wooden Spoon; the children’s rugby charity dedicated to helping children and young people who are disadvantaged physically, mentally or socially. 

After asking supporters to vote on whether to keep or ban the beard, generous donations totalling almost £4,000 were made. The votes were counted and it was decided the beard was to be banned on return to London. GREAT Britain team mate Nikki Banks painted the bristly face mask in full Union Jack colours and a top London stylist team - which included Shaftesbury Avenue’s McCann bespoke tailors and Ottoman’s Barbers - was waiting in St Katharine Docks to return the sportsman to his more dapper, pre-race look.

Clipper Race founder and chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston was first to use the beard trimmer on Ollie before the experts took over to finish the job. Congratulating him, he said: “Ollie has done a very good job of transforming himself into an impressive sailor throughout the race. He is clearly a very natural and competitive athlete who has shown his ability to transfer his skills from the rugby pitch to the sea.

“His beard growth has been equally impressive, I feel I must take some credit in inspiring the decision to grow it, though I think he still had a few years to go in order to rival mine. Congratulations Ollie on an excellent voyage – hopefully this is not the last we see of you on the high seas.”

Commenting after his makeover, Ollie Phillips said: “As well as learning to sail, growing the beard over the last ten months has been a challenge in itself, but knowing that it was all for a great cause and that we managed to raise an incredible £4,000 for the Wooden Spoon charity, has made it all worthwhile. 

“I'd like to thank everyone that supported me during my journey and donated to my fundraising effort. Thank you to McCann Bespoke Tailors and Ottoman's Barbers for helping me to look human again and returning my face back to its fresh-faced, former state.' 

Ollie’s Clipper Race journey came about after he was side-lined from rugby with a serious calf injury. The former England Captain used his Clipper Race journey to double as an international rugby sevens mission.

During race stopovers, the 2009 IRB Player of the Year used his time off to coach local and national level rugby teams and visit federations to learn more about their preparations for the Rio 2016 Olympics, at which he hopes to play before officially retiring as a professional rugby player.

Summarising his race experience, Ollie stated: “I’ve missed playing rugby although it was a brilliant experience getting to meet players all over the world, from South America to Asia, the United States, and beyond. The whole journey definitely inspired my desire to return to the top level and represent my country once again, if my injury has healed.”

“The Clipper Race was an incredibly challenging experience which pushed me to my limits both physically and mentally in ways I could never have foreseen. But overall it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and one I’ll treasure for life.

“I’m certainly going to continue sailing. There is a whole new world once you get out on the water and I’m far from done exploring it yet.”

There is still time to add to Ollie’s Wooden Spoon fundraising. Visit to donate.

CLICK HERE to view the photo album of Ollie's makeover.