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Tom Slingsby adamant Australia can match anyone in SailGP

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Smooth sailing: Australia, helmed by Tom Slingsby dominated much of the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess only to finish as runners-up (Photograph courtesy of SailGP)
Lift-off: Australia leave the water briefly during practice ahead of the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess (Photograph by Simon Bruty/SailGP)
Three from three: Australia, helmed by Tom Slingsby during a dominant opening day in the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess (Photograph by Thomas Lovelock/SailGP)
Stark warning: Tom Slingsby, the Australian helm, has warned his SailGP rivals that his team are still confident of beating anyone (Photograph courtesy of SailGP)

Tom Slingsby has warned rivals Australia remain confident of beating anyone in the SailGP fleet despite a painful defeat by Great Britain in the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess.

Despite dominating much of the event, winning four of the five fleet races, including a clean sweep on Day 1 to sit top of the leaderboard heading into the podium race — 13 points ahead of fellow qualifiers France and Great Britain on 36 points — Australia ultimately finished as runners-up, beaten by Sir Ben Ainslie’s team in the winners-take-all showpiece finale to end the weekend in disappointing fashion.

Slingsby has now lost to Ainslie in each of the two SailGP events featuring both skippers, and his hunt for revenge — which he spoke of before the event — will have to wait until the second round of the season in Taranto, Italy, in June.

Slingsby and his team have just more than a month to work out the Australians’ game plan for beating the British should both teams once again qualify for the final.

And while there is tactical work to be done, Slingsby insists there will be no lack of confidence among his crew in the second event of the campaign.

"We proved that we've got a squad that can beat anyone in the world on our day,“ he said. "We've got a confidence heading into Taranto.

"We sail so well when it's stronger wind, and for sure we want to keep developing our lighter-air sailing, but we've now got the confidence — with these hot squads around the fleet with such amazing sailors — that when we are on we are hard to beat.

"That's a really good confidence booster. Only us and Ben have that confidence moving forward, and the other teams have to prove it to the world and themselves that they can beat us on our day as well."

Having sailed so well over the five fleet races, Australia’s performance in the final came as something of a surprise to many.

“We had a few boat malfunctions in the last race,” added the Sydney native, “but Ben [Ainslie] was ahead of us when these happened. We were right on his tail and then had some issues with our board going down.

“I'm not going to say it's the reason he beat us, as he was in the lead, but it let him get that additional distance on us, which helped him win the race.

“Hats off to the Brits, they sailed amazingly when it counted, but I feel like our team sailed amazingly and consistently the whole way through.”

The 36-year-old also believes Britain’s victory was all but assured between the start of the race and the first mark.

“I think we hit the start line a metre behind doing 48 to 49 knots, so we couldn't really ask for a better start, and then it was a game of who was going to get to the first mark first,” Slingsby said.

“We were so close to rolling Ben numerous times; there was one point there when we needed a metre or two to get around him and we were set up for it with an extra bit of gust, but we were already going 48 to 49 knots and we just cavitated [the increase in drag and reduced lift owing to changing pressure over the foil].

“The boat just wouldn't accelerate and it started shaking, so the extra bit of wind — which in any other conditions would have allowed us to roll him — didn't allow us to roll him because we cavitated and the boat didn't accelerate.

“That gave Ben the advantage; if you don't get clear of him by that first mark when the boats bear away, he becomes strong. He was able to hold us there to the boundary and didn’t infringe us, and from them on it was a close race, but we weren't able to overtake.”

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Published April 28, 2021 at 7:58 am (Updated April 28, 2021 at 7:47 am)

Tom Slingsby adamant Australia can match anyone in SailGP

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