Please select your home edition
Edition
Naiad/Oracle Supplier

Tom Slingsby – on the America’s Cup (Part I)

by Rob Kothe and the Sail-World team on 19 Nov 2013
America’s Cup final - Oracle Team USA vs Emirates Team New Zealand Carlo Borlenghi/Luna Rossa© http://www.lunarossachallenge.com
Olympic Gold Medallist and Oracle Team USA 34th AC strategist Tom Slingsby confirmed to Sail-World last week that he will return to Oracle Team USA when it mounts its defense of the 35th America’s Cup.

Sail-World talked at length with Tom in recent weeks. Here is the first part of our three part interview series with him.

We started by asking him about the changes on the boat after the initial losses, with Ben Ainslie taking over the tactician’s role from John Kostecki.

Tom said ‘I have been a tactician for ten years whether it is on TP52s, Etchells, and Farr 40s but was very comfortable with the strategist role. Ben has always been a skipper but he took on the tactician role well. He knew exactly what he would want someone telling him whether it was wind, what they were thinking, and plans ahead up the course. He just said exactly what he would want to hear from his tactician and it worked perfectly.

‘Sailing with Ben was awesome. We clicked well and the communication flowed really well and just the conversation between us, because we were able to talk over the communications channel, the whole crew knew what we were thinking of doing before we did it. It worked quite well that way and it did lift everyone.

‘The grinding load was heavy. I think maybe at the next America’s Cup they should be monitoring and put up the heart rates of the crew but yes my heart rate was always right up there. I listened to a couple of races and it sounds like I am talking quite normally but I remember during the races there were times it was hard for me to talk.

‘The rule was that the tactician basically never had to grind. It was only if they felt that they could help they would. Ben was really putting hard on the handles. He was really strong but there were times there where he felt he had a better view from the middle of the boat at the opposition so he would jump out of the cockpit and he would move around the boat a bit more than JK did.

‘For me basically Ben and Jimmy and the crew just wanted me talking about everything that I saw, everything that I was thinking and so whether that was wind on the water, I think we have got a knocking path and then it is going to lift in 10 seconds, whether it was I think the wind is better on the right but the current is better on the left or whether it was I think we have to protect the left hand side from the opposition, I think we should tack here or tack there.

‘I was always talking and Ben always made the final decision. Every race it got better between us. Obviously when you are learning to sail with a new person in the team it just takes a few days to gel and once it gelled it went really well.


‘Jimmy was psyching the New Zealanders into believing were making a lot of changes.

‘We were making very small changes but obviously if you have got an opportunity there to get the other team thinking you are doing something special to the boat that no one knows about, as you say with Australia II in 83 it’s obviously a good thing. You can play with their minds.

‘Instead of them worrying about the technique of how to sail the boat, which is 90% of what the change was, they were thinking we had done something extra to the boat. We got them off the trail of what we were actually doing. In that regard it was pretty successful.

‘We made a couple of small changes to the wing tune. We tried changing the mast rake on one of the lay days but it didn’t work. We didn’t like the results so we went straight back to the normal mast rake. We made a couple of very small changes that you wouldn’t be able to notice and I don’t know if they made any difference.

‘The big thing was the wing tune and that was probably 15% and the way we sailed the boat in my eyes, everyone probably has their own opinion, but that was everything.

‘The way we learned how to get on the foils upwind was the key. The way we moded the boat once we were on the foils. It would have been easy to try and chase these magical numbers of 30 to 35 knots upwind but the actual fact you had to do too many tacks and your VMG to the top mark wasn’t quite as good.

‘We found how to mode the boat really well upwind, we found that magical sweet spot of foiling upwind and still having the right amount of height. In my opinion that was the game changer.’

Asked about Jimmy Spithill’s press conference mantra ‘we can win this’

‘For me when we were down 6-1 was probably my lowest point in regards to thinking we could win. I certainly did not share Jimmy’s confidence then.

‘I think that was the day we made the wing tune changes. But then we went out the next day and we lost the next two by ten seconds and I really noticed a step up in the performance of the boat.

‘I realized how close we were in foiling the boat upwind, stably. We would pop out every now and then and I realized foiling upwind was really a possibility here and then we were down 8-1.

‘Other than the light wind race where we sailed very poorly and they just missed the time limit, I think we sailed really well for the next five races.


‘Jimmy won all the starts. Ben was picking all the right lanes, making all the right calls and during those times, those five races we just sailed better than the other guys. There was no speed advantage. We just sailed better.

‘We started developing our technique. We started learning this is actually working. If we keep doing this the boat is going to get faster and faster and that’s what happened.

‘Come the last three races we were the faster boat and even though New Zealand sailed a lot better for those last few races they were just outdone by a quicker boat.

‘Going forward, for me 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.

‘I had a really good experience last time and Oracle was great to me as a team. I know how good the people are who get involved in with this team, from the designers to the sailors,'

Signing with Oracle gives me the best chance of winning another America’s Cup which is what I want to do.'

(In Part II Tom talks about the kind of boat that could be sailed in AC35)
(In Part III Tom talks about Iain Murray’s Wind Speed calls and his Olympic plans.)

Southern Spars - 100Wildwind 2016 660x82Bakewell-White Yacht Design

Related Articles

My Best Olympic Race – Vasilij Zbogar
Memorable moments won’t always be the golden ones. They can be hitting a personal best, breaking a national record Speak to any athlete and ask them about a moment that defines their career. Whether it happened five days, five months, five years or even fifty years ago the chances are the memory of that moment is clearly engraved in their minds.
Posted on 27 Jun
Rio 2016 - Swiss 49er Grab Final Rio Berth - 49erFX Still Uncertain
It was a day to remember for Sebastien Schneiter and Lucien Cujean of Switzerland who claim the final berth for Rio 2016 It was a day to remember for Sebastien Schneiter and Lucien Cujean of Switzerland who claim the final berth for the 2016 Olympic games and will be competing in Rio. Sebastien was delighted posting, “Who would have thought so two years ago when I quit my little Laser Radial to jump in this crazy boat that is the 49er!”
Posted on 27 Jun
Two young members of the Team Tilt squad selected for the Rio Olympics
Sebastien and Lucien have been racing the 49er together for two years. They have quickly progressed up the ranks Some very encouraging results over the last few months combined with a place becoming available and the Swiss Olympic ‘Newcomer Rule’ mean that Sebastien Schneiter and Lucien Cujean will be heading to Rio this summer to represent their country at the Olympic Games.
Posted on 24 Jun
Gladwell's Line - Emirates Team NZ launches shadow AC50
Emirates Team NZ took a late but significant step along the road to the 35th America's Cup, with the launch of their AC4 Emirates Team NZ took a late but significant step along the road to the 35th America's Cup, with the launch of their AC45S - as the test boats are called in the Protocol which governs the 2017 event. The bloated Protocol, which now runs to 83 pages of legalese, is restrictive on the size of boat that can be built as a test platform but doesn't restrict the number that can be built.
Posted on 22 Jun
My Road to Rio - Part 4 - Chilean siblings
Run a Google search of parallel and it gives you the noun, a person or thing that is similar or analogous to another. Run a Google search of parallel and it gives you the noun, a person or thing that is similar or analogous to another. This description could not be more accurate for two Chilean sailing teams who draw distinct similarities in their game of life.
Posted on 22 Jun
Rio 2016 - Australian Sailing's gender imbalance queried in Parliament
An MP has questioned the gender imbalance in the Australian Sailing team for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics in Rio The gender imbalance in the Australian Sailing team selected for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro was queried in the Victorian State Parliament on Tuesday. Victoria, Australia, is the host state for the Final of the 2016 World Sailing Cup in December.
Posted on 22 Jun
America's Cup - Emirates Team NZ launch their AC45S - Video
Emirates Team New Zealand launched their first AC45 S (Surrogate) on Tuesday afternoon at their Auckland base. Emirates Team New Zealand launched their first AC45 S (Surrogate) on Tuesday afternoon at their Auckland base. The team is expected to start their on the water testing program in a few days.
Posted on 22 Jun
America's Cup - Emirates Team NZ launch new boat and new sponsor
Emirates Team New Zealand launched their new development boat at their Beaumont Street Emirates Team New Zealand celebrated a long awaited milestone today at their Beaumont Street base in Auckland by launching their first custom designed development boat. The boat is the first true development boat of which Sweden, Britain has two and USA has three. Japan has one passed on from the USA Defender. Team New Zealand also announced a welcome new sponsor.
Posted on 21 Jun
Australian Gold medalist says bystanders watched armed robbery in Rio
Liesl Tesch recounts being robbed along with coach Sarah Ross on Sunday morning Liesl Tesch, a six time Olympian, along with coach Sarah Ross, was robbed at gunpoint on Sunday morning local time, in Rio de Janeiro in the third incident in a month involving sailors and firearms. 'As we passed the back of the bus stop over the road from our house, two people jumped out from behind/beside the bus stop in front of me.'
Posted on 20 Jun
My Best Olympic Race – Dorian van Rijsselberge
Reaching an accomplishment can take a matter of days, months or even years but many know what it takes. Reaching an accomplishment can take a matter of days, months or even years but many know what it takes. Tying your shoe laces for the first time as a young child is an achievement, playing your first note on a guitar, getting those grades to get into college or delivering a knockout presentation to seal a deal. We’ve all been there.
Posted on 20 Jun