Inner drive

Up-and-coming sailor, Chelseann Osborne shares with us her motivation that lead her to claim the title which puts her among the best in the world in her class.

26 August 2019


Focus. It’s a word 17-year-old Chelseann Osborne, Australia’s newest sailing gold medallist, uses three or four times in short succession as she describes how she handled the pressure of competing at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi in March.

Chelseann, from Townsville, sailed a standard Laser radial in a wide range of wind conditions, requiring a full repertoire of sailing skills.

Over the four days, racing was so tight between the young Queenslander and a male Belgian sailor Boj Dua, officials decided they couldn’t be separated and awarded joint gold medals in the Level 5 Individual Event.

“I was really nervous, but I tried to not show I was nervous,” she confides. “I was trying to keep focused and not to stress out about anything.”


Her gold in Abu Dhabi is the most recent highlight of a sailing career that’s recently powered into overdrive.

In 2018 the teenager was named Australian Sailing’s Sailor of the Year with a Disability Award, ahead of Paralympic star Matthew Bugg and other top sailors.

But Chelseann’s success has taken persistence and determination, overcoming an Autism Spectrum Disorder which makes it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time and causes learning difficulties, as well as a chromosome deficiency which affects her muscle tone.

She began in the junior ranks in Sabots at the Townsville Sailing Club where a supportive, inclusive atmosphere gave her the encouragement to keep improving.

“The group of kids around when she started sailing respected her for her differences and allowed her to grow at her own pace,” remembers Chelseann’s mum, Karen.

Now an instructor at the club, Chelseann is a very popular mentor, running a Tackers and a Learn-to-Sail course. She is especially good with several younger sailors with disabilities who have joined the club’s program.

“Sometimes I feel coaching is more enjoyable because you to get to see all the younger kids having fun and growing and succeeding in the sport,” she says.

You can’t doubt her commitment to her club and sailing. Almost straight after getting off the plane from Abu Dhabi, Chelseann was dispensing tips to the team she had helped prepare for the North Queensland Schools Championships.

The key message again: ‘focus’. The team of 14–16-year-old boys wisely acted on the gold medallist’s advice and won the deciding race of the series.

Her parents Karen and Peter believe sailing has helped Chelseann’s confidence and her ability to make decisions. There’s no question she loves competing, regular sending GoPro vision to her former coach Danny Fuller, who’s now with the Queensland Academy of Sport.

“I think the last one she sent was a tacking one,” he recounts. “So, I waited till there was a day when there was similar weather and then commentated on a kid here [in Brisbane], and sent it back.”

Chelseann’s immediate sailing future includes more time on her Laser, plus fielding several invitations to apply her skills in larger boats – including the possibility of crewing at Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach Race Weeks.

“I’ll do whatever they want me to do,” is the quick response when asked what role she might have mind. A gold medallist happy to help out anywhere.

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