by Rob Kothe
Tom Slingsby - Laser Worlds 2008, Terrigal
The scene was the Boat Park at the 2008 Laser Worlds at Terrigal on the New South Wales Central Coast. Father David Slingsby and Coach Arthur Brett were there as the 23 year old Australian, the 2006 Laser World Championship runner up and the 2007 Champion, Tom Slingsby rigged his Laser to go out in 20+ knot winds to defend his 2 point lead.
The wind coming over the saddle above the Haven had earlier blown down the perimeter fence and all the country flags, now it was strengthening. Then came the AP. Racing was abandoned.... it was over.
Suddenly there was a stream of sailors coming over to shake the hand of the regatta leader including second placed Julio Alsogaray (ARG) and third placed Javier Fernandez (ESP).
Tom Slingsby spoke to Sail-World. 'I was looking forward to the racing today. I had a narrow lead, but I felt I could win on the water. No racing and so I've won anyway. I'd rather have sailed toda, but I have won my second World Championship. It was awesome to have it (the Championships) at home with good winds and waves.'
First three place getters in the Laser Worlds. Javier Fernandez (ESP)was third, Julio Alsogaray (ARG) second and 2008 Laser World Champion Tom Slingsby is on the right. Terrigal
'With the forecast for winds up into the 30's today, I knew I needed to go well yesterday. I had good starts, I would have been happy with twos' or threes'. I just chipped away and with two wins just got my nose in front.'
'In the last race of this event I got a good set of waves and jumped out early on the first beat. Generally I was sailing a lower VMG than the other guys, I was able to ease sheet and got the boat up and planing.'
'Across the regatta, for most of the time, I did the simple things right. I had plenty of boat speed and with a good start, if I hit the first shift , then all of a sudden I would be in the top two or three at the first mark and could go on from there.'
'This was my first ever regatta at home (Terrigal is only 20 km from his home in Point Fredericks, Gosford). Just to keep things normal, I did not stay at home, I moved out to a unit, because that is what it is like at every regatta.'
'In the last two seasons the World Championships have been my goal events. Having won them both I know I can peak at the right time, now I have to do it in China.'
'My diet for China has just started. I have a goal weight of 74-75 kilos which I think is achievable ... I am 83 kg now, so I will lose muscle mass. '
The dual World Champion was very impressed by the sailing ability of second placed Julio Alsogaray from Argentina.
'Julio did a great job here; he didn't finish any worse than ninth place. That is awesome sailing. He is right on the radar screen now as a big threat at the Games in China. Of course Javier will be a tough to beat too (Javier Fernandez - ESP).'
Slingsby thought major rivals Paul Goodison (GBR) and Andrew Murdoch (NZL) would have had better results. (Goodison recovered to seventh, while the Kiwi Murdoch was back 13th). 'I thought they would do better, but neither of them had much luck, particularly in the qualifying rounds and they were playing catch up. They will be right in the battle in China. They are both very good in light conditions.'
Arthur Brett, Slingsby's coach, has been a major factor in the young Australian's rise to the top. Brett was the 2001 and 2002 Contender World Champion and he has been working with Tom since he was 19. The Laser squad he was coaching was Michael Blackburn, who has now retired, Brendan Casey who switched to the Finn class, and Tom.
Brett was emotional. 'We would not be here today if Michael Blackburn had not been so open and helpful. We learnt a lot from him. I'm a pretty lucky guy to coach someone like Tom. He's a pretty special talent - and I knew that four and a half years ago when I started coaching him.'
The Australian Sailing Team coaching squad is one of the best. Brett explained a little of his own background. 'I have also been helped a lot by my mentor 'Fletch' (Mike Fletcher the evergreen Australian sailing coach will be at his ninth Olympics in Qingdao), and Lex Bertrand (brother of America's Cup skipper John) who coached me for 25 years. Victor Kovalenko too (the Head of the Australian Coaching group who coached Australia to two gold medals wins at Sydney 2000) have been very supportive.'
What now? Brett explained 'Tom has a tight program over the next six months. There will be a lot of early morning training in the tide off Terrigal and some regattas in Europe. Not sure just how much time we will spend in China.'
Toms' father David, a long time member of the World Championship hosting Gosford Sailing Club. said 'Mavis (mother) and I are very proud; it's a wonderful achievement to win it for a second time. We've never seen a Laser Worlds before and on the first day I saw Tom go round the wrong top mark; it was not good for the heart. So I stayed ashore. Yesterday while he was busy winning two races, I was line marking the boat park trying to keep occupied. I was planning to go out on the water today, but the rest is history....'
Julio Alsogaray explained through his translator, 'This is my best result so far of course. I won Princess Sofia and I was third in the Pan American Games. I missed a few shifts upwind in those last two races that cost the regatta. Now I am looking forward to Qingdao.'
USA Qingdao representative Andrew Campbell did not have his best results, 29th overall but he was smiling. 'Tthe regatta has been a lot of fun, a lot of different conditions. The sailing conditions were beautiful, it was champagne sailing but it's not easy. Every race, every start, and every situation you learn more about yourself and your competitor, it's a constant learning process, and looking ahead to Qingdao, I need to lose another five kilos. As all the data shows it will be a lighter air regatta, I will have to go down from 80 to 75 along with the main players.'
Fellow American Brad Funk missed out on American selection on a count back in the US trials but he finished 9th overall in Terrigal. Tthis regatta definitely favoured the stronger guys, fitness was definitely paying. On those big waves, it's beautiful out there...it was like art going down wind trying to stay on those puppies.
'I could have had a much better result. I had alphabet soup going on (BFD and RAF) and I led the fleet to the wrong mark one time.
'Tom has definitely shown that strong conditions are his forte. Now we will see what happens in Qingdao.'
It seems like there will be locks on plenty of fridge doors between now and August as the Laser sailors going to Qingdao 'skinny down'.
The next major event for many of these sailors is the 39 Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofía - MAPFRE - Mallorca 2008. The regatta will be held from 15 to 21 March 2008.