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Saturday, November 30, 2013

EXCLUSIVE: What Tom Slingsby Said

Australian yachtsman Tom Slingsby, a four time Laser World Champion and Olympic Gold Medallist - Laser, has added an America's Cup win to his swag of medals and achievements. Pretty impressive given he is still only 27 years old. Here he opens up about being a part of the biggest comeback in yacht racing history.
Photo: Andrea Francolini
"When we won, I was ecstatic and just so happy that we had pulled it off, to have achieved that comeback. The adrenalin over the previous few days had been pretty intense leading up to that final race. It was a huge achievement to comeback like that.

"Every day we were just trying to figure out how to sail the boat better; how to tack, gybe and mode the boat better upwind. In every race we were learning to get the most out of the boat that we possibly could.

Sailing with Sir Ben Ainslie:
Photo: Guilain Grenier/Oracle Team USA
"As the strategist my role was to work with the tactician. When Ben replaced John (Kostecki), he wanted constant talking and that was pretty natural for me. It’s an easy job for me to feed that information to Ben about the wind, the current and what was happening on the boat, telling him everything that I was seeing on the boat and around the boat. I provided as much of the information to him that I could see.

"Each day we made small technical changes to the boat to help make it perform better upwind. I am pretty superstitious and not many off us shaved during the series."

The Comeback:
Photo: Guilain Grenier/Oracle Team USA
"When were down four races I was pretty sceptical about using the postponement card because it left us quite vulnerable if we had any future breakages.

"When the Kiwis were on match point in Race 13 I remember talking to the boys and we just all agreed to just go out there sail well, have a really good race and show everyone that we are a really good sailing team. Then we started winning a few races and getting faster and faster until the point when we were quicker than ETNZ upwind. All of a sudden they knew they had to do something to stop us.

"We were handed a huge get out-of-jail-free card when they were unable to finish that Race 13 within the prescribed 40 minute time limit. We had luck on our side that day for sure."

Career Future:
Photo: © ACEA / Photo Abner Kingman
"I would like to take on a more senior role next time. I came into OTUSA after my Olympic campaign was over 12 months ago and that was quite late. I’d like to part of it from the beginning and also be associated with a team that has a good chance of winning. A team that has good people and is well funded that ticks all the boxes.

"Oracle Team USA is a truly international professional sailing team with plenty of Italians, Aussies, Kiwis, Dutch and Americans and while the ANZAC humour is evident there is not one dominant nationality. I was very fortunate to be a part of it."

Motivation:

"Kinley Fowler was in the mix to be on the racing crew for the AC finals but a month before the regatta started he fractured a vertebrae in his back and wasn’t able to race. He would make a speech each day before we headed out onto the boat. He’d ease the tension by making a few jokes and he gave us plenty to laugh about."

Location:

"San Francisco was the perfect venue to host the Cup as nowhere in the world is such a natural amphitheatre that suits these boats more. The breeze comes up in the afternoon and it worked perfectly in sync with the television schedule and that is something we shouldn’t go back from now. Sailing is enjoying a high profile right now and to see hundreds of thousands of people lining the shore to watch the races was quite a sight.

"Sydney would also be an awesome venue but it lacks a solid breeze every day and that would make it very tricky to host a Cup that would work with a television schedule."

Looking Ahead to AC35

"Finances will play a huge role in the next Cup because in order to have more teams and more boats the budget needs to be smaller. It is possible to have a smaller boat, for example a 60 foot version of an AC72 boat that can be just as quick. We’ve learnt so much from these boats and that will continue."

Lulu Roseman

Postscript: Slingsby has re-signed with Oracle Team USA for AC35 and will compete aboard Loyal in this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

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