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SailGP: Slingsby on being two up

by John Curnow 15 May 23:42 PDT
Tom Slingsby AUS holds the trophy aloft as the victorious Australia SailGP Team celebrate their win on the podium. Race Day 2 Event 2 Season 1 SailGP event in San Francisco © Bob Martin for SailGP

During the practice racing, and also for the entire second round of the enigmatic SailGP, it did not look like Australia would go two zip. Had the organizers got what they wanted? Had the teams closed up that much with additional practice in the stiff breezes that roar across the icy waters of San Francisco Bay?

Then the miraculous occurred. Australia made the final, and won it. So with Sydney all but forgotten, and SFO now well and truly fish wrappers, NYC looms. June 21 and 22 to be precise, with training ahead of that. The questions all revolve around how did Team AUS do it? So Tom Slingsby was kind enough to do a bit of Q and A for us.

SW - What was it like to come from behind after adversity?

TS - "It was a great feeling for us, after having a really tough time in training. We had some technical issues with the boat, we were not sailing to our abilities, and Team Japan was just out sailing us. We just kept on telling ourselves that it will all come good for Sunday, and fortunately it did."

SW - What was the difference? What did you do?

TS "The biggest issue we were having was our starboard rudder. All the foils were taken back to NZ after the Sydney event, and re-faired ready for SFO. On Day One of training in San Francisco I said there is something wrong with the rudder. Unfortunately, Team Japan had an issue with their rudder too, and they took the final spare rudder available."

"For the next week and a half we tried to fix the issue, but were unable to do so. Somehow it was slightly asymmetric, and our boat builder, Tom Woodcock, did everything he could to fix it, but it would continually lose flow, and then trip the boat off the foils (as you saw in our near capsize just before the event)."

"Eventually the tech team were able to fix another damaged rudder, which we were able to put on for Day Two of racing, and that got us back to our normal foiling height, which meant we were able to push harder again."

SW - What was it like to have more foiling time during practice and especially racing?

TS "It's great being able to get more time out on these boats. They are very different to the AC boats of last time (AC35). For example, these foils have been designed to travel to faster top speeds, but in doing that, the take off speeds suffer a bit. In Bermuda we could do foiling tacks on our high-speed boards with a bottom speed of 15 knots. Now to do a foiling tack our speed cannot go below 19 knots. So it's much harder in the F50!"

SW - What was it like to punch the fabled 50-knot barrier?

TS "Ahhhh, the 50 knot barrier has been a bit frustrating for us, I must say. We have come so close, so many times... When we arrived in SFO we had a good crack at it, but then had to concentrate on improving our race laps, and didn't focus on it anymore. Someone will break it, but we are now not worried, and will focus on winning the remaining events."

SW - Are the other teams getting closer?

TS "Yes. The other teams are getting closer. Team AUS and Team Japan were not allowed as much training time as the other teams in SFO, which was frustrating, but also understandable. Our team and Nathan's team have a lot of experience in these types of boats, so the other teams were given more time to close the gap. Team GBR and USA were the big improvers in San Francisco."

SW We hinted at this after Sydney, but at the time Russell Coutts was not a believer. We had a discussion with him about it being akin to a restrictor on an air intake in motorsport, which we thought was apt given the comparisons that SailGP have always used. See HERE for the full story. We are not surprised by this, and would expect it to occur once more in NYC, actually.

SW - Is Nathan still talking with you?

TS "I haven't spoken with Nathan since SFO. I assume we are all good. We have been good mates for 25 years, so a bit of rivalry won't stop that."

SW - Is it more draining foiling more often and being set back by bad starts and tech issues, or harder when you have to struggle to stay up?

TS "These boats are incredibly complicated, and it can be frustrating when technical issues hamper the very few training days that we do get, but it's all part of the game. The boats are on a world tour, being shipped from event to event now. It's not like the AC, where you have a huge team working full time on the boat to make everything perfect. It's a balance, and we are fortunate that our Aussie shore team are the best in the business."

See SailGP.com for tickets, and all the goings on ahead of Round Three will be right here on Sail-World.com

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