Australia sailing on Sydney Harbour.
Tom Slingsby's Australia will seek a first win of the season in their home SailGP leg this weekend. Image by AP PHOTO
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Upset Slingsby still fuming before Sydney SailGP

Jasper Bruce February 23, 2024

Tom Slingsby is “still fuming” about the 11 centimetre-mishap he says likely cost Australia their first overall win of the SailGP season.

More than a month after the Abu Dhabi SailGP, Slingsby is eyeing a breakthrough victory at this weekend’s regatta on Sydney Harbour.

And he’s warning rivals to expect renewed aggression from the ladder-leading Australians.

Winner of Sail GP’s first three seasons, Team Australia had their worst overall performance of current campaign in January in Abu Dhabi where they failed to finish on the podium for the first time in 13 events.

Slingsby’s team sat atop the leaderboard heading into the last of five fleet races and looked certain to make it to the winner-take-all final contested by the event’s top three boats.

But a software error in the Australian F50 catamaran’s computer meant they were 11 centimetres over the line when the starting gun fired.

As a result Australia were forced 20 metres behind the pack and could not recover. 

They dropped from first on the ladder, crashed out of contention for the final and finished seventh out of 10 teams.

All 10 SailGP drivers pose by Sydney Harbour.
 Slingsby’s Australia will be out to beat their nine rivals on Sydney Harbour this weekend. Image by HANDOUT/SAILGP 

“I’m still fuming,” Slingsby told AAP.

“I’m still upset that we broke the start by 10 centimetres. There’s a high chance we would’ve won that event if we didn’t do that. That’s on me.”

As he looks to recover Australia’s momentum and claim a first win in home conditions, Slingsby is intent on changing little about his boat’s strategy.

“Honestly, in our debriefing, we did everything right and the software was a little bit wrong,” he said.

“I can’t sit here and play the poor guy who hasn’t won an event. We’re leading the series. 

“We’re sailing the best we’ve ever sailed. We haven’t got the win yet but it’s coming.”

But Slingsby is keen to adopt a new outlook should his boat sail its way into Sunday evening’s Sydney SailGP final.

Slingsby and his team have previously taken a conservative approach in finals, hoping to turn the race into a grind and come out on top.

“But that hasn’t happened this year, so we need to change our approach,” Slingsby said.

“If we make the final podium race on Sunday, we’ll be more aggressive in the starts than we have been.”

A SailGP race on Sydney Harbour.
 Sydney hosts one of the most spectacular legs of the SailGP season. Image by AP PHOTO 

Official practice on Friday was cancelled under unfavourable weather conditions, leaving crews to rely on prior experience to navigate the forecast wind.

But SailGP permitted the German and American teams to practise on Sydney Harbour, given both have undergone major changes to their crews since season three.

Those marooned on land delighted in the light conditions reported on Friday morning.

“The two teams that were granted training are getting zero wind so we haven’t missed out anything,” Slingsby said.

The call nevertheless frustrated Team Great Britain, preparing for only their second race with new helmsman Giles Scott after Ben Ainslie stepped down in January.

“We would’ve liked to have been one of those three out there but it’s out of our control,” Great Britain’s wing trimmer Iain Jensen told AAP.

“We just play with the cards we’re dealt.

“It is a shame not to get out there and get a bit of training in but we’ll make the most of what we can.”