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Slingsby bracing himself for challenging SailGP title defence

Champagne moment: Australia SailGP, skippered by Tom Slingsby, right, celebrate winning the inaugural championship in 2019 (Photograph by SailGP)

Tom Slingsby says winning a second SailGP title would be more gratifying than savouring their first and for good reason.

Slingsby and his Australia SailGP team-mates were thrilled to have won the inaugural global championship in 2019.

But the multiple world champion, Olympic gold medalist and America’s Cup winner believes retaining the title among a field bolstered by the additions of highly decorated sailors Sir Ben Ainslie, Peter Burling and Jimmy Spithill when the second season begins in Bermuda next spring, would be even more significant.

“It feels great to be the inaugural SailGP winners,” Slingsby told The Royal Gazette.

“However, if we were to win this coming year it would feel better as there is now no doubt all the best sailors in the world are on the one start line.”

The second round of the SailGP series was due to commence last May but was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The updated season will now commence with the inaugural Bermuda Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess & Beach Club to be held on April 24 and 25 in the Great Sound.

“We are so excited to get going again,” Slingsby added.

“I think 2020 has been tough on everyone so we are all ready to get back out on the water racing again.”

The 36-year-old sailor is no stranger to Bermuda having spent considerable time on island in the lead up to the 35th Americas Cup as a strategist for Defender, Oracle Team USA.

“Personally I’m really excited to get back to Bermuda,” said Slingsby, who won the 34th America’s Cup with Oracle Team USA in San Francisco in 2013. “I loved living there for nearly three years.”

SailGP’s eight national teams, Australia, Denmark, France, Britain, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and the United States, will use the Great Sound to hone their skills before season two gets under way.

“I think the April conditions can be a bit hard to predict,” Slingsby added.

“But generally there is plenty of wind that time of year, so hopefully we get that and exciting racing.

“I think the teams will have a staggered arrival. We will be one of the last teams to arrive for training.”

The SailGP series features the wing-sailed foiling catamarans designed for and raced at the 35th America’s Cup the island also hosted in 2017, which have since been modified to one-design specifications and rebranded as the F50.

Dubbed as the fastest sail race boat in the world, the F50 was the first boat to hit 50 knots during racing.

“The boats have all been made one design, which means they are identical,” Slingsby said.

“We now have two grinders instead of four and we have a designated flight controller. Design played a big part of AC35. Now it’s just down to the skill of the team.”

Slingsby is particularly keen to compete against compatriot and former Oracle team-mate Spithill, who will also be making a return to Bermuda after signing on to become CEO and helm of the United States SailGP Team.

“It’s great Jimmy is racing in SailGP,” Slingsby added.

“I can’t wait to line up against him.”

Spithill is widely regarded as one of the sport’s top athletes, having been skipper of Oracle for more than a decade, during which time he delivered two America’s Cup wins.

Each grand-prix event includes two competition days, featuring five fleet races leading to a final match race between the two leaders.

Points are accumulated at each event throughout the season, culminating in a $1 million winner-takes-all championship race at the Grand Final.

The Bermuda Grand Prix will broadcast live in the United States and Canada on CBS Sports and in Britain on Sky Sports, with added exposure in more than 150 countries.

SailGP will also work closely with Bermuda on the common goal of diverse and meaningful social impact, with clear engagement points across the community, including through SailGP Inspire.

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Published December 17, 2020 at 4:13 pm (Updated December 17, 2020 at 4:11 pm)

Slingsby bracing himself for challenging SailGP title defence

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