Taking to the air, with Tom Slingsby

Tom Slingsby wins his third Laser Worlds title - Laser World Championships
ISAF Sailor of the Year Nominee, Tom Slingsby, certainly has had a flying career path, to date. No patch has probably had more airtime, in every sense of the term, than his recent escapades.

He won the Etchells World Championship in Ireland in August as tactican aboard John Bertrand's boat along with Andrew Palfrey, then backed that up with his third win at the Laser Worlds in England and now this weekend, he will literally depart the water and take to the air, as he and fellow World Champions, Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen of 49er fame, get the foiling Moths wound up for some hot laps of Lake Macquarie in NSW along with Scott Babbage and Joe Turner.

Bertrand, Palfrey and Slingsby. Etchells Worlds Championships 2010

It's all for the sensational Men's Cancer Research event, entitled Heaven Can Wait and it seems Tom cannot wait for his next sail, no matter what the craft.

Despite all the airtime he's been getting as a result of his recent achievements, Tom was really good to talk with. ‘My throat is a bit sore, but there are a few people wanting to chat, so it's OK. We'll push through.'

Talking firstly about his nomination for Sailor of The Year, Tom says, ‘Yes. This has just capped off a really good year. It is an honour to be nominated and held along side of all these great sailors. How fantastic that the other Australians there are my good mates, Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page (the Men's 470 crew).'

Straight after the Etchells win, there was yet more airtime for Tom, as he had to back it up on the track at Hayling Island in the UK, for the Laser World Championships. Incidentally, it was Tom's third win from 10 appearances at these titles.

Having done so well in the Farr 40 and Etchells Worlds, his heart must have had that sinking feeling when he capsized in the last race of the 2010 Laser Worlds . ‘Yeah, actually a couple of seconds before it happened, I thought maybe I should go into safety mode a bit. Afterwards, I got it up pretty quickly and was surprisingly calm, but you are going to be a bit jittery any time you capsize in a Worlds.' Interestingly, Nick Thompson from the UK did the same thing and he too was looking at the Gold.

Asked about his feelings on winning that third World Title, Tom said, ‘Second in the Farr 40s and first in the Etchells and Laser Worlds is an amazing feeling, especially to finish it all on my birthday. At this point, I would really just like to thank all the Australian Sailing Team sponsors and patrons - Audi, Hamilton Island, Ronstan and all of the patrons. To all of them, a big thank you.'

Tom's cohort for the Heaven Can Wait Lap Dash around Lake Macquarie is Nathan Outteridge, the dual 49er World Champion who is also the Australian Moth Champion and runner up in the past Worlds who pursuaded his Australian Sailing Team mate to have a go at the Moths.

Nathan Outteridge - Syz & Co 2010 Moth Europeans

Just how much foiling Moth sailing has Tom done? ‘So far, it's not that much. I've probably done about 30 days of Moth sailing last summer. Even if the 2011 Worlds, here on Lake Macquarie next year weren't part of my programme, I would still take it out for fun. It is a cross between flying and sailing - an amazing sensation.' He and Nathan are calling October, Moth Month, ‘I have one or two Farr 40 events, but other than that I will be in the Moth every day.' (Note we still have no images of Tom sailing his Moth, that wil come today.)

‘I'll probably need 8 knots to get up on the foils. Any lighter or and the lightweights, like Nathan and Joe Turner will sail away from me. I see there is a nice 20+knot Nor'easterly forecasted to build all day with breeze that night, which will suit me fine.

Given that, the 18 footers will find us hard to beat, especially with a race like Heaven Can Wait, where there are all different angles. The Moth is good because we won't need to set and drop a ‘chute, whereas the 18 footers are going to have to pick their angles and they really do slow down on the corners. We can just point at the mark and go. If it is light and we have to go low-ride or maybe just foiling, then they will have our measure but with breeze is wil lbe interesting.'

The near as three hour record for the 28.5nm lap was set in about 25 knots. The course is a tour of Lake Macquarie, which begs the question, where would one put the chart, as a plotter is out of the question on a foiling Moth. ‘Yeah, I am not too sure – I have already been thinking about that', said Tom. ‘We should be able to put one of those heavily laminated chartss, somewhere on the wing then.'

Tom Slingsby sailing a Moth in Sydney.
Craig Heydon

Now the other item to be considered here, also call Lake Macquarie home. Tom says, ‘I saw one of the biggest sharks I've ever seen there. Not too sure what species it was and we did not hang around to ask it, either! It was big - just massive.

That was at the start of the 2010 Australian Etchells Nationals, with Doggy and John. I was out for a sail there just last week and saw more. It is not good to think about, because I capsize a lot.'

You'd hope he's pretty deft at recovering, too. ‘Yes. It is quite unnerving. The problem we have to worry about is that a Moth on foils travels really silently.' One wonders that if you were to actually hit one, what would happen.

Tom answers, ‘I have hit some things – some big fish and yes, it is an instant cartwheel.'

So you wouldn't want to do it with a shark and then end up in the very same water with a now truly angry invertebrate? To that, Tom just says, ‘No.'

There definitely has to be some motivation for a bit of great airtime in that alone!