Slingsby’s Australians confident ahead of Chicago showdown on Lake Michigan
“What we have got going on at the moment is really special. The team is confident, the harmony and the vibe in the team is unbelievable – we are just in a really good moment.” – Tom Slingsby
Tom Slingsby says his all-conquering Australia SailGP Team is comfortable about being the target team going into the second event of SailGPs Season 3 in Chicago this weekend.
With overall season victories in the first two seasons of SailGP and win last month at the opening event in Bermuda Slingsby knows his well-established and highly polished crew are very much the on form team.
“Every time we hit the water right now we are full of confidence and that’s a great place to be going into an event like this,” Slingsby said at today’s skippers’ press conference in Chicago.
“What we have got going on at the moment is really special,” he said. “The team is confident, the harmony and the vibe in the team is unbelievable – we are just in a really good moment.”
As good as their current winning streak must feel for Slingsby and Co the Australian Olympic gold medallist said the crew were under no illusion that it would last indefinitely.
“We know we are going to get beaten at some point,” Slingsby said. “But we need to focus on what we are doing really well now so that when times do get tough we can try to get back to this kind of feeling we have got right now.”
Asked about the reason for the team’s success Slingsby paid tribute to the contribution made by flight controller, double Nacra 17 Olympian Jason Waterhouse, who he said was a huge part of why the team had achieved such good results.
“The way he flies our boat is a bit higher and more consistent than some of the other teams,” Slingsby observed.
Although acknowledging that SailGP’s policy of making the performance data from the entire fleet of F50 catamarans available to all the teams, Slingsby said he was unconcerned at the prospect of other teams trying to copy Waterhouse’s technique.
“It seems people are beginning to clue on and watch Jason a bit more and see what he is doing,” he said. “It is very easy to look at the data and say ‘Oh yeah, Australia is consistently flying the boat higher, so let’s just do that’. But it is another thing doing it because Jason is extremely talented.
“At the moment he has got the best results in SailGP – so good luck to the other flight controllers trying to match him.”
Although it may be proving near impossible for their rivals to find a chink in the Australian’s armour, Slingsby confessed his losing engrained trait of superstitiousness can at times mess with his equilibrium.
“I hate being superstitious,” he said with a grimace. “All of a sudden I am trying to eat the same things for breakfast. Then, when they don’t have it that day it all turns into a nightmare for me.
“I really have got to calm all that down a bit and focus on the things that we are doing on the water and how we can replicate those, rather than worrying whether I ate the same thing,” Slingsby admitted.
Earlier this week the Aussie crew got a boost from the announcement that SailGP had penned a three-year event deal with their home city, Sydney.
“That’s huge for us,” he said. “As we have seen at the start of Season 3 we are missing one team – Japan – because, I guess, they weren’t able to perform off the water and create enough sponsorships and partnerships to keep the team commercially viable.
“That’s a challenge for us too in Australia, so locking in this three year deal with Sydney [is important]. We have had a couple of events previously and obviously the New South Wales government and Destination New South Wales have decided that this event brings a lot of value to Sydney and we need to lock this in for a long term deal.
“So it is great for our team because we have got our home event back and it is also great for SailGP.”
Despite dominating on the water the team is clearly very far from resting on its laurels. As Slingsby put it: “The endless pursuit to get better is always there” with his team.
“For sure we are studying all the other teams all the time,” he said.
“People might think that we are not doing that, because we have had some good results lately, but I have probably watched about 15 hours of footage of Ben’s [Ainslie] team [Great Britain SailGP] after Bermuda.
“[I was] listening to their communication and watching for what they do differently. We do some things better than them and they do some things better than us. So we are trying to take to good things from them and adapt them to our skill set.”
Asked who might pose the biggest threat to the Australians this weekend on Lake Michigan, Slingsby said it was hard to single out any one team as he knew that “any team can win on their day”.
“It depends on the conditions, He said. “If it is breezy then I think we definitely watch out for Ben’s British team because they have proven that they are extremely strong when the breeze is up.
“Then, in the lighter conditions it can be anybody. Phil's [Robertson] Canadian team did extremely well in the lighter winds in Bermuda. That was a shock to us all and they may well be the light wind guys to watch out for.”
Ultimately, when the five race series gets under way on Saturday afternoon, Slingsby reiterated the Australian crew’s focus would be very much be on themselves and how they sail their own boat
“I think we have to keep an eye on everyone, but for sure we just try to focus on ourselves,” Slingsby said. “We know that if we are sailing well then we are hard to beat. “So we are just going to try to keep that mentality and focus on ourselves.”