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Tom Slingsby – on the America’s Cup 35 and the boats (Part II)

by Rob Kothe and the Sail-World team on 22 Nov 2013
34th America’s Cup - Oracle Team USA makes a spectacular and wet sight on Race Day 15 © ACEA / Ricardo Pinto http://photo.americascup.com/
This is part two of 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.

At the close of part one, Tom explained ‘My main focus is on America’s Cup 35. I want to sail with really good people. I want to be part of a really good team that can win the Cup and for me that’s the most important thing.

‘Going forward I’ve always wanted to sail for an Australian America’s Cup team. But Oracle Team USA is a very strong team. Going to a new team, at this point in my career, wouldn’t be a smart decision. For me, I want to continue to grow and learn and to do that with Oracle, who will make decisions which will shape the next event.’



Now he continues...

‘Obviously the America’s Cup is a design game. It’s a factor of a lot of different things -design, sailing team, budgets. There is a lot of different things that go into it but there has to be a design aspect in the America’s Cup. I am a one design sailor through and through and I would love to see the America’s Cup one design but it is just not the way it is.

‘If you want one design racing you go to the Olympics. This is a design race but you can cut costs in making some things one design and not ruining that, still you would get to design all different types of hull shapes, different shapes of foils, different rudders and your gains can be made that way whilst still leaving it a design race.

‘The comments I am making are very much my personal opinion but I very much hope we have foiling boats again.

‘We have taken such a massive step forward it would be a shame to take a step backwards now and the America’s Cup is the biggest event in the sailing world at the moment.

‘It has got to be sailed in the most high performance, most spectacular boats because that is the one event that gets played to non-sailors around the world and that’s the way we have to attract more viewers, having the most amazing boats with the best sailors and the best competition in the world. It has to be a spectacle, the America’s Cup, and foiling is the only way to do that properly.

‘Obviously in AC34, when it came to foiling Herbie was all rumors and conspiracy theories.

‘You don’t want any computer automated devices. You don’t want anything to make foiling an easy thing. You want it to come down to the skill of the crew because foiling well is really a skill that is acquired over a long period of doing it. You saw that in this one. You saw the teams that foiled well all through the Louis Vuitton. Teams that foiled well could gybed well, could do all these moves. Anything like that anything that is computer automated I don’t think should be on the boat. I think it should be down to the skill of the sailor and then you will really see who the best team is. I am pretty sure that is the direction it will go.

‘On the matter of wing sails or soft sail for a future cost reduction. I don’t know the loads what it would be in these boats but for the 90 trimaran, I remember someone telling me with the soft sail the mainsheet load was 27 tonnes because you need to sheet down and flatten the sail. That meant a lot of extra time and money had to go into structural design. With the wing load it went down to 2 ½ tonnes because you are just using it as a traveler. You don’t have to flatten out the sail and performance wise technique wise, everything on the water says the wing sail is definitely the way to go.


‘Obviously launching it is an issue but I think slowly but surely we are all getting better at it and it is taking less and less people to launch it. I think in this type of boat you can only have a wing sail in my opinion. It is too high performance and a soft sail just wouldn’t work.

‘In cost reductions obviously the 72 is a great platform and with all the gains we made it is hard to think taking a backwards step to a slower smaller boat. It just wouldn’t be the same spectacle. If they decided to keep the 72 I think you could make a one design wing. That would take out a lot of designers, a lot of design costs.

‘It would take out a lot of tooling so the cost would go down a lot just with the wing. Maybe they could make a one design beams and make some rules with the hulls that they all have to have cockpits. That they all have to have a certain amount of volume and a few things that could take away a lot of the design costs and then maybe they cap it.

‘You are only allowed to build one boat, two wings or who knows. Maybe cap how many sailors you are allowed to have in each team. That’s if they stay in the 72 foot class.

‘If they go to a smaller boat obviously there is less cost in construction. Just say they go to a 60 foot catamaran there would be less personnel. The design cost of foils and hull shapes would be very similar but less personnel and less people to launch the boat and probably less shore crew required. There are a few ways of cutting it down and a few ways of cutting costs whilst keeping the amazing spectacle that it was.

'Now, I’m ready to take what I learned into the next campaign. I may be young and only have one America’s Cup campaign under my belt but if you were ever going to learn from one campaign, this was it. I have a lot of experience in these boats now. I was on the boat every single day that it sailed, so in the sailing world, nobody has more experience than I do in these boats. So I think next time around I can step up into more of a leadership role and I look forward to doing that.'

(In Part III Tom talks about Iain Murray’s Wind Speed calls and his Olympic plans.)

Read Tom Slingsby – on the America’s Cup Part I here

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