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America's Cup: Slingsby optimistic despite disastrous first day result in Jeddah

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World NZ 1 Dec 2023 02:30 PST
American Magic - Day 1 - Preliminary Regatta - Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - November 30, 2023 © Ricardo Pinto / America's Cup

They say that form is temporary, but class is permanent.

On Friday, Day 2 of the second Preliminary Regatta, the US Challenger American Magic will be looking to prove the validity of that sporting maxim.

At the first Preliminary Event in Vilanova, American Magic staged a comeback in the shortened series to beat the defending America's Champion Emirates Team New Zealand. Racing was abandoned while the boats were still on the first leg of the Final Race due to a fading breeze.

The New York Yacht Club's team came to Jeddah after sailing an intensive development program in their pair of AC40s in Barcelona.

Most pundits would have backed the Americans to make the Final in Jeddah, at least. Instead, they look to be proving another sailing maxim: "you can't win a regatta on the first day, but you certainly can lose it."

On the opening day, American Magic finished just one race, were DSQ'd in two others and scored just a single point from three races.

"It was probably one of the hardest days I think I've ever had in sailing," said co-helmsman, Tom Slingsby, reflecting on American Magic's single-point score on the overnight leaderboard. "To have a day like that where we're disqualified for going outside the boundary, not making the start time limit, and then finishing last. I've never had a day like that before," remarked the newly crowned Rolex Male World Sailor of the Year.

"It's always tough having a day like today."

"You just want to crawl into a hole, hide, and forget about it."

"But that's not what you've got to do. You've got to face your issues head-on.

"What were we doing wrong? How did we make those mistakes?

"Obviously, as a team, we're gutted. I'm embarrassed. I've never sailed like that before. "

"We've just got to get better.

"We've already debriefed a few issues that we were doing."

Twice, American Magic got caught upwind of the start line, ran out of breeze, fell off her foils, and struggled to get back behind the start line.

"It's tough when your mistakes were before the start - even happening with a minute to go," he said ruefully.

"We ended up getting scored as a Did Not Finish this because of that. "The other teams were able to stay on the foils. It's not luck. It's got to be our technique. It's got to be better management. And that comes down to Goodie [Paul Goodison, skipper and co-helmsman] and me making sure we put the boat in the right position and our technique is on point."

"There's a little bit more breeze tomorrow, so we might be able to hide away from our issues for one more day," said Slingsby, optimistic about the next two days of racing.

"If there's a bit more breeze, you'll see everyone hitting the line pretty cleanly, and we'll get back to normal race styles a little more.

"A coach told me when I was younger, 'You don't lose talent overnight.'

"We're still the team that won in Villanova. We're still the team that went out there and had a second and two firsts in conditions similar to tomorrow's forecast.

"We've just got to go out with that confidence and forget about today, but learn from our mistakes.

"And then on Sunday, the forecast is similar to today. We've got to see how much we can improve with one debrief - well, a couple of debriefs - and looking at some footage. We've got to go out and win every race. That's what the goal has to be - and see what we can do."

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