Since day one of SailGP, Tom Slingsby’s Australia has built a reputation as a formidable racing force. The team followed its Season 1 triumph with a second Championship title in Season 2 before storming into Season 3 with the same unshakeable confidence. Since then, they’ve racked up six podium positions, including three event wins, with last minute comebacks and dominating fleet performances alike. Sitting comfortably at the top of the leaderboard, Australia remains the team to beat with just three events to go. But what’s the secret to their success? Driver Tom Slingsby reveals his insight into his team’s winning formula, from effortless communication to having a sought-after ‘super sub'.
The origins of the Australia SailGP Team started back in 2011 when Sam Newton, Kyle Langford, Kinley Fowler and myself all joined Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup within a month or two. At this point in time, the America’s Cup had changed into fast-paced, extreme catamaran sailing and there was a real push for the next generation of talent to come through and sail these boats. All four of us got hired at the same time and went through both the 2013 and 2017 campaigns together.
During the 2017 campaign, we also became good friends with Jason Waterhouse, who was with SoftBank Team Japan. Having the experience of sailing together throughout the America’s Cup meant that when SailGP came along, putting the team together was easy. These are guys I’ve sailed and raced with for years, and some are my best friends, so we’re not going to annoy or frustrate each other off the water.
For sure, there are some great Australian sailors out there, including Jimmy Spithill, Nathan Outteridge, Iain Jensen and Luke Parkinson, but I wanted to go with people I knew, and knew well. When we kicked off racing in SailGP with the addition of Jason Waterhouse, we knew that we had something pretty cool going on. Two and a half seasons later and we’re still at the top of the league and we’re still the ones to catch.
Our communication on board is a sign that we’ve sailed together for a long time - we don’t speak very much. We know what each other are thinking - sometimes I can say something that’s not very clear but my teammates know what I mean. Those are little split seconds where you can gain on your opposition. That’s not something that other teams can shortcut - they can look at all our data and numbers and watch our footage but they haven’t sailed together for ten years like we have. We’re going to try and keep that dynamic going and hopefully that’s something that will make us hard to catch.
We also have the most sought-after substitute athlete in the fleet - Ed Powys is the unsung hero on our team. His grinding is unbelievable and he’s super fast around the boat. At the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix in Season 2, we subbed him into the flight control position and won the event and that was his first ever event doing flight control.
This season, we’ve had Kyle Langford out twice - once for the birth of his second child and once for a back injury - and we’ve chucked Ed onto the wing. We got a fourth and a third in those events so Ed has done an unbelievable job at keeping our consistency high. He absolutely gives us an edge and all the other teams know it.
Competing with this team isn’t going to last forever and we’ve really got to take this moment in. When you’re at the top of the game for a long time, you never know how many more events or seasons you’ve got left. Things might change if our results go down - we might have new management come in who want to get new blood into the team, so we really have to cherish the moments we have to race and represent Australia together.