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An evening with Tom Slingsby and Nathan Outteridge – Part I

by Rob Kothe and the Sail-World Team on 23 Jan 2011
Tom Slingsby and Nathan Outteridge (r) Australian Sailing Team
Two Australian sailors are starring at the 2011 Audi Victoria Week, Tom Slingsby and Nathan Outteridge. Outteridge, after winning the Audi King of Docklands SB3 event is now leading the SB3 series. ISAF sailor of the year Slingsby is calling tactics on today's IRC Division A double winner Hooligan. Today we publish the first part of a three part interview series with them both.

At the 2010 Heaven Can Wait Charity event two young Australian sailors, Tom Slingsby and Nathan Outteridge, were special guests at the Welcome Dinner held at the RMYC Toronto on Lake Macquarie.

They were interviewed by Rob Kothe, Sail-World.com Publisher and member of the Heaven Can Wait event organising committee. Here is part one of that interview ( there will be two more published over the next week).

Rob: Nathan and Tom welcome to the fifth annual Heaven Can Wait event. Tomorrow you are both sailing Moths in the 29 nautical mile Heaven Can Wait One Lap Dash – and we thank you very much for your support of this event.

Lets go back a little …

Tom Slingsby is currently one the six nominees for the ISAF Sailor of The Year. (since awarded to Tom) It has been a great season - with three World Cup Regattas, three wins, one Laser World Championship win, which now makes three for you, one World Championship win on Etchells – a pretty purple patch - and Nathan Outteridge has a 49er Worlds and a second, a Moth Europeans title and obviously is keen to get another Moth title here on Lake Macquarie early next year. (he did)

Can we go back about 20-odd years? When I was little I played on bicycles after school, not at all what you guys did ….

Tom Slingsby:’ For me I sailed. My Dad and Mum got me into sailing, my twin sisters also sailed as well so I just followed in their footsteps, but primarily I was always a tennis player.

‘I grew up playing tennis. I trained five or six days a week. That was always my goal and I used to sail once a week, every Saturday at the club racing.

‘I remember my first sailing season as I didn’t enjoy it too much – my sister used to pay me 20 cents per race just to stay on the boat. I was also going through a swimming phase, I used to love to try to swim to shore after a race for 20 cents and I then I got a packet of footy cards after each week, so I was pretty happy.

‘I went through all the junior sailing stages. I did okay but I never actually got close to Nathan and there was another guy Joe Turner, both were the leading lights in the Sabot Class in their junior years. They were always well ahead of me but at about 15-16 I quit tennis and I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do.

‘The thing that made me want to sail was sitting on the rocks at the Olympics - I went down every day for two weeks to watch the sailing. I used to sit on Bradley’s Head for five or six hours and just watch the sailors come right in, tacking close to the rocks and I remember watching Robert Scheidt and Ben Ainslie sailing for the Laser Gold Medal and I remember that was the sign that was what I really wanted to do.

‘From that day forward I have dedicated everything to Olympic Sailing, I have done everything I can from then on.


‘I remember when I was playing tennis and doing sailing once a week - the last year I was doing that I finished 61st at the Laser Nationals and then once I quit tennis. I had all this time on my hands – I didn’t really want to do school work. I went out training every afternoon in the Laser and after three months of doing that I finished first at the Nationals the year after. For me it was sailing, through my tennis I had a good work ethic in sport I think, and that set me up well and I have been on the Lasers full-time for 14-years now - a long time.

Nathan:’So I was only good at one thing - sailing. From a young age, I started sailing from about three, I would sail with my Grandfather and my uncles (who are here tonight).

‘They always claimed that they taught me everything I knew and I won’t let them think anything else.
‘I moved into Sabots sailing out of Wangi Sailing Club and I sailed Sabots for eight years which meant I started at five and I think I finished at 13.

‘Like as Tom said, I used to be out there as much as I could.

‘Tom was a bit of a fat kid sailing two-up and before he got the chance to sail one-up he moved onto the Lasers, so I haven’t really gotten the chance to race against him since then.

‘Anyway I sort of moved through the junior classes, then the 29ers came out so I did a bit of 29er sailing and got introduced to the Youth Program.

‘I went through 29ers and 420s and did really well and was able to get selected to go to three Youth Worlds.

‘From there I moved into the 470 class and Victor (Kovelenko) is the head-coach. I learned a lot from him and my passion was always to sail skiffs so I got to watch ‘Nico’ (Chris Nicholson) every time he was out sailing on the lake, I would watch him on TV, I would watch the videos and I would watch the videos again. I still have 35 videos sitting at home, you can watch them but you can’t really see what is happening because I have watched them so much they are worn out.


‘From then I have been in the 49er. I campaigned for the last Olympics and as you all saw, I got relatively close to a medal. I have been campaigning ever since then.

‘One thing that I find is that I like to sail various different types of boats - the 49er is the main thing for me but I like to do some Moth sailing.

‘I have been getting involved in doing some yacht sailing.

‘I only got back this morning from San Francisco where I was doing the Melges 32 Worlds.

‘We ended up ninth - we didn’t have a great one. I was on the boat that won last year so it was quite disappointing for us, perhaps it was my influence on the boat that we didn’t do so well. They were pretty nice to me about it. I think one of the good things about sailing is you can pick whatever type of boat it is you want to sail. You can do ocean racing, you can do match racing, you can do skiffs, moths, lasers, Olympic stuff, whatever.

‘As long as you are out there enjoying doing it, then you are always going to do well and I guess that is one of the things that Tom and I find - that we just love sailing. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as there is competition involved and the boat is fine and there are good mates around .. I think we will always be doing it.

Rob: But Nathan the path wasn’t quite that smooth was it? Something happened in January 2005. Tell us about that.

Nathan: ‘I’d made the transition from Youth to Olympic level but I had a car accident, basically at the start of 2005 in January.

‘I was driving from a regatta that had just finished on Lake Macquarie, the Laser Nationals, I was heading down to Sail-Melbourne to sail a 49er and driving to Melbourne by myself, we had a bunch of us travelling together but I was the only one in the car at the time.

‘It was about mid-day to1:00 in the afternoon - I fell asleep while I was driving. The car ran off the road straight into a tree. I think I was doing about 70km, I can’t be sure. I was just exiting a town speeding up to the 100 zone, Holbrook the town with the big submarine, sort of in the middle of nowhere.

‘Anyway I woke up to some paramedics cutting the door off the car, I didn’t really know what was going on, I could just see the windshield was smashed in and I was a bit close to the steering wheel. I looked around and had a few cuts on my feet and my knees and thought I was fine.

‘When they tried to get me out I could feel a bit of pain in my back, they put me straight on a spinal-board and I went to Albury Hospital. About 20 x-rays later they saw that there was something wrong with my back, they didn’t really tell me or I didn’t really listen to what they said but they said ‘look we have to get you back to Sydney’. I flew back to Sydney about 1:00 that night, arrived to another bunch of x-rays and found out I had a shattered disc in my lumbar-spine, L3 was completely shattered.

‘Anyway cutting a long story short, I spent the next week in the hospital fully drugged up waiting to get operated on. I had a nine hour operation where they basically rebuilt my spine, then I spent another two weeks trying to get to the stage where I would be able to walk again.

‘I had to wear a back brace, which went from shoulders to hips.

‘My body was basically shutting down, it wasn’t processing any food so I wasn’t allowed to eat for 12-days and I lost about 15-kilos. Eventually my body started working again and I started walking. I left the hospital about five weeks later. I started the long recovery from being able to walk, to being able to rebuild all the muscles and eventually being able to sail again - about nine months later.

‘I guess the whole reason why I think I recovered so well was, for one, I just wanted to get back to sailing and two, the only way to do that was to listen to all the doctors and physicians. I had a really good support network from my family and friends and many people came to visit me when I was in Sydney Hospital. I guess within about a year I was back competing and the following year I went to Europe, competed and made selection in the Australian Sailing Team.

‘It was a difficult year but it has definitely made me a tougher person. I am just trying to make the most of what I’ve got.

Rob: So I guess you believe what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

Nathan Absolutely!!

In Part II to follow we will learn about how Tom found more things to do than homework .

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