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The Good Oil

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 14 Jul 2019 15:00 PDT
Tom Slingsby of Australia SailGP Team practices in NYC. Event 3 Season 1 SailGP event in New York City, New York, United States. 19 June . © Sam Greenfield for SailGP

This week I've been fortunate enough to have spoken with a lot of terrific sailors and unreal people. So let's just get straight into it then... Our first sailor is none other than the great Tom Slingsby.

Q: What was it like to go from the helm of an F50 to the bow of an Etchells?

A: "It's obviously not a easy transition from steering an F50 to the bow of an Etchells for the Worlds with no practice, but I love that challenge all the same. I want to be versatile, and no matter what position I'm in or on what type of boat, I want to win that event. Most sailors generally stick to their comfort zone, but I enjoy challenging myself."

Q: What are your thoughts on having been in all three finals and winning two?

A: "We (the Aussies) want to win every event this year. We knew it was a tough ask, seeing as we're competing against these teams, but I don't think we should be happy with winning two out of three. We have two events left this year, and both myself and my entire crew are going to do everything we can to show that we are the number one team!"

Q: Do you think RC will again limit your time on the water ahead of Cowes and Marseilles?

A: "Yes. Unfortunately we will be handicapped in terms of training time again in Cowes and Marseille. Look, it is what it is. We didn't sign up knowing that we would get so much less training time, but SailGP are trying to make the racing closer, and more exciting. They are thinking about the bigger picture, and whilst I don't agree, it is what it is. We need to make the most of the limited training we get..."

Q: How will you prepare for those events, given the prize at the end?

A: "Unfortunately, there are no classes in the world like the F50, so training for the events is next to impossible. A lot of teams sail GC32s. I think that's great for 'crew development' type training, but still not too similar to what we are doing. We are going to do a lot more theory training with our playbooks, and work on how we can improve in our efficiency, so that when we do get to sail, we need to use every minute wisely. Obviously, whatever time we have on the water is unbelievably precious to our title campaign."

Q: You got five bullets in a row in Texas and nearly pulled it off. In a fleet of that sort of calibre, what was it like on board when you did five in a row? (PS. Something not achieved before at an Etchells World Championship.)

A: "Yes we sailed extremely well in Texas to rattle off five races in a row and nearly win the Worlds. This was our first ever regatta together as a team, and we also had a brand new boat that always takes time to get used to. I wish day one and two were a little better, so that we were in the hunt earlier, but that's sailing."

Q: What did it feel like this time, relative to 2010 with John Bertrand and Andrew Palfrey when you went that one step further?

A: "Yes this is my third Etchells World Championship. I have previously sailed with JB where we had a first and a third place. Obviously winning the worlds with JB was amazing. He had competed in countless Worlds previously, and had so many podiums, and then to win it with him for his first time was amazing."

"This time sailing with Graeme Taylor and James Mayo (previous Etchells World Champion) it was very similar, for GT has been on the podium about five times and never won, so I really wanted to win it with him too, so he can have that feeling, but unfortunately it was not to be for us. He will win one very soon, I have no doubt."

Q: GT and James are such nice guys, was it like sailing with mates, relative to all the other things you do?

A: James and GT are just great guys. A few other teams asked me, but I turned them down because the schedule with SailGP was too tight. When James asked me, I said I would love to race with you guys, but I think the schedule is too tight. He said, "let's make it work," and we found a way to do that. I loved sailing with these guys, and it's got me really psyched to come back to the Etchells more often, and do some additional World Championships, hopefully including some extra titles. It's a beautiful class with great people."

Taking that segue then thanks Tom, and talking some more Etchells for a bit longer; it has been a delight to speak with so many in recent times about the class, the boats, the sailors, as well as the Australian Championships in Brighton in January, and then the 2020 World Championship in Perth next November. Like a lot of competitive classes, many a sailor has taken to the new Vaikobi sailing range with gusto for their preferred tech gear.

Billy Merrington is one such sailor, and previously, he's won races at an Australian or World Championship. The passion is well and truly there still, with the calibre of competition, and the overall camaraderie the driving forces behind coming back year after year. Merrington will be off on what must be about his 22nd Hobart on Gweilo, which is one of the TP52s that forms an impressive village of the Teepees for the 75th gathering of the faithful, with entries now amounting to the magic ton.

Talking Hobart, and the host, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, have put a lot of attention into their food ahead the grand Christmas spectacle. Head Chef, Jack Peacock, has installed a jackstaff on the transom of the new clubhouse with an epicurean ensign, and the good ship CY now serves meals with great treats like beautifully cooked salmon with artichoke chips, and horseradish cream. Good chance you'll be impressed too, and there are distinct smiles amongst the staff as well, to make it even more pleasurable. A good result from listening to your members and guests.

Actually it does highlight the fact that many a club is now trying to make better, healthier, and tastier options available to sailors and club members alike. Good on them. All places near the water should make it special, and The Galley at The Boat Works is another that comes to mind. Interesting times...

Still on the Hobart then, and Jack Macartney from SHK Scallywag called in from England after the Transatlantic race. The disappointment of the last Hobart is certainly forgotten, but the air of unfinished business, and a stellar effort over in the Caribbean, now that she has her freshly minted, and complete set of up and downhill North Sails, makes her more than a dark horse come December 26.

"Yes. The Caribbean was good for the team, and the boat is running well. Completing (line honours win) the Transatlantic was another milestone. We had variable conditions, including some heinous stuff, and we came out on top, which is great for everybody. We are now onto the Fastnet Race, and looking to match up with the Rambler!"

Macartney added, "We are on for Hobart. It is our #1 priority! We will get the boat there in plenty of time, and do some racing before hand, so that we are sorted and ready for Boxing Day. Overall, the boat is going as well as we have ever had it, which is really good."

"All of the 100s have their moments, and we are looking to compete the whole way. They are all so close you now, and so you have to be in it to win it. Macartney has sailed with the campaign extensively over the last decade. The crew is mainly from the last Volvo campaign, with some new additions. "Many thanks to SH (Seng Huang) and Witty for it all. It really is great to have all these awesome sailors around."

"All in all it should be a really great beginning to the Summer by having all the supermaxis in there and swinging. It is an interesting world, for even with all the modifications, we are all pretty tight. The one who has a clean race and gets through the transitions the best, will win. It's pretty cool having five in the race this year."

Bringing it back just a tad now, and it is only a few weeks until Hammo, and Whitsunday Holidays had a couple of the options taken up last week. They did so well, there is even some new stock that has come up with the old 'no reasonable offer refused' burgee flying. See for yourself by looking at the options here.

Coming all the way to the here and now then, and Tom Burton is clearly a brilliant sailor. His recent maiden win in a Worlds in the Laser Standard is a cool back-up to his Olympic bling, and also an emphatic marker in the road to Tokyo. Talking with him, runner up Matt Wearn, and also coach Michael Blackburn was both a delight and enlightening (yep, fully intended).

For so long the one Aussie sailor has had all the shoulders of the others on which to stand in order to reach out and grab the top prize, then hand the baton on when time is called. Now. If only the class protagonists themselves could follow suit! Oh well, I can read all the emails, and inspect the knives pulled out from my back to see who thinks what...

The 12m Intergalactics have been great, and it is little wonder so many of the old girls are given all the love in the world to keep on keeping on. Soon, Steak'n'Kidney will be able to once again take her place, and we must check in to see if KA-5 has been sold. In the meantime, I just love the shot of the Palm Beach with the fleet heading downhill. You'll always find a few at a regatta, especially 12s, Etchells, and Hobarts.

Right oh - here today there are some gems for you to review like the 12s, Transpac 50, 52 Super Series, RC44, Musto Skiff Worlds, Finns, AC36, latest Barrenjoey Pin recipients including Sir Jim Hardy OBE, the Clipper, 420 Worlds, Golden Globe, the 75th Hobart, Olympic Classes, Youth Worlds, Hammo, Transat, Para World Champs, and certainly there is much, much more.

Remember, if your class or association is generating material, make sure we help you spread your word, and you can do that by emailing us. Should you have been forwarded this email by a friend, and want to get your very own copy in your inbox moving forward, then simply follow the instructions on our newsletter page, where you can also register for different editions.

Finally, keep a weather eye on Sail-World. We are here to bring you the whole story from all over the world...

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS

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