Tom Slingsby – America’s Cup at the Extremes and Olympics (Part III)
by Rob Kothe and the Sail-World team on 25 Nov 2013
This is part three of the three part Sail-World interview with Tom Slingsby, Olympic Gold Medallist and Oracle Team USA 34th AC strategist who is returning to the Oracle Team for AC35.
Oracle Team USA foiling - 34th America’s Cup Chuck Lantz © http://www.2007ac.com
‘Foiling made the 34th Cup the spectacle it was but it was pretty extreme racing.
‘On the AC72’s we could only adjust the main foil. We couldn’t adjust the rudder foil. I think if we could adjust the rudder foil, obviously not computer automated but if you could adjust the angle of a tack of a rudder foil you would have better foiling upwind and it would make it a lot safer also.
If the wind picked up 10 knots in a race you wouldn’t be stuck with the max lift setting and it wouldn’t be anywhere near as dangerous. You adjust it and get to your 20 knot setting and not your 10 knots setting and the boat would sail a lot safer.
‘I hope you are allowed to adjust the rudder angle and then all of a sudden the performance of the boats will go through the roof just with that one adjustment to the rule.
‘Given the fact we could not change our settings, what Iain Murray (the Race Director) did with the wind strength calls was absolutely spot on in my eyes.
‘Everyone saw how much we were improving throughout the event. In the end maybe we could have sailed in 25 knots but if we go out there and then have a capsize and someone else dies because someone increased the wind limits to 25 knots it would have destroyed the whole event.
‘I completely agree with what Iain did. All his safety measures I thought were the right decisions and they were made for the right reasons.
‘For all the computer sailors, the guys who sit on the Internet and say this or that the wind limits are too low, they need to understand the risks.
‘These guys weren’t on the boat in 23 knots when you are doing close to 50 knots in a bear away and not in control, the boat is hobby horsing and you are nose diving.
‘I can tell you that, I am pretty ballsy and I love extreme sports and I am not really scared of much but I can tell you that you are definitely on edge when you are doing a bear away in 23 plus knots and the boat is completely out of control.
‘You are scared. Some of your best mate’s lives are in your hands right next to you. If you make one mistake you don’t want anyone to lose a life.
‘Everyone says it is only 23 knots. J/24s sail up to 25 knots but they are not doing three times the wind speeds. They are not sailing round at 45 knots downwind.
‘It you hit a submerged log at 45 knots downwind and snap your main foil there is a high chance that people are going to lose their life.
‘If we are out in 30 knots all of a sudden because the wind level gets increased and we are doing 50/60s downwind in the next Cup imagine the risks. Bottom line I think the wind limits were great and I think they were right on the money with the numbers that they put it at, at 23 knots.’
Talking about a future Olympic campaign Slingsby explained
‘To do the Olympics you have to have an amazing amount of drive. You have to be up in the morning at 6am. You have to be cycling, in the gym. You have to be out sailing when it is freezing cold and zero degrees and doing that extra stepped compared to anyone to win that gold. It has to become an obsession of yours.
‘At the moment I don’t quite have that drive but in a year or two who knows. I might get that back and I might want to come back to Olympic sailing.
‘If I did it would definitely in Finn. 100% in Finn. My Laser career is over. I am a bit too fat these days. I am 89kg 187cm. six foot, one inch. Quite short in Finn terms.
Yes, compared to the big guys like Giles Scott, Mark Andrews, Denis Karpak are all around the high six number. But the way I look at it though I am still a little taller than Ben so if he can do it surely I have got a chance. But time will tell if I go there.
‘Looking to the Lasers, I am very pleased with the way the Australian Laser guys are going.
‘Those guys I know them all very well and they were a huge part of me winning my gold medal. They were there training with me wherever I wanted them, whether it be in Lake Garda or Weymouth or if I said to Blackers can we get the guys out, I need some good training partners they would fly out and help me. I am so proud those guys are doing really well. They are all good friends and am so stoked the Aussies are doing so well in the Laser world, with two of them in the top 10 in the Oman Worlds.
‘Right now I will be sailing with Anthony Bell’s Loyal for the Sydney to Hobart and we will hopefully be very competitive for line honours.
‘This will be my first Hobart. This will be my first time. I have always had Olympic commitments or America’s Cup commitments so something on. This is the first time I am free.
‘I haven’t done too much ocean racing so we will get offshore in Bass Strait and see if it is as scary as the bucking horses we’ve been on for the last few months.’
Read Part I – Tom Slingsby on the America’s Cup here
Read Part II – Tom talks about the kind of boat that could be sailed in AC35 here