Australia driver Tom Slingsby has ‘thrown down the gauntlet’ to the ’next generation’ of SailGP drivers, challenging them to prove their worth by winning events.
At 39 years old, Slingsby is now the oldest driver in the SailGP fleet following the recent departure of former Emirates GBR driver Ben Ainslie and former U.S. driver Jimmy Spithill.
Reflecting on their exits from the league, Slingsby said the pair had remained his ‘two biggest rivals to win the championship each year’.
He pointed to the teams’ championship standings as 3rd (USA) and 4th (Emirates GBR) at the time of Spithill’s and Ainslie’s departures. “They weren’t forced out by any means, results-wise they were still the top sailors in the world,” Slingsby said at a press conference ahead of this weekend’s event in Abu Dhabi.
He challenged the new influx of younger drivers, including the U.S.’s Taylor Canfield, Emirates GBR’s Giles Scott, Germany’s Erik Heil, Switzerland’s Sebastien Schneiter and Spain’s Diego Botin to ‘prove’ themselves.
“Jimmy and Ben are in their mid-40s and were still winning events consistently and the new, young generation - most of them haven’t won an event,” he said. “If you’re the next generation, you’ve got to prove why you’re the best in the world and knock us old guys off the perch.”
He added that repercussions await for those who flounder at the bottom of the leaderboard.
“The new guys have the opportunity, they’re out there and have a boat to drive in SailGP - the top sailing league in the world and they’ve got to take that opportunity with both hands or they’ll be replaced.”
Switzerland driver Sebastien Schneiter, who picked up his best finish of 7th place in Dubai, said he ‘fully agreed’ with Slingsby, while Germany’s Erik Heil promised to ‘challenge’ Slingsby.
“He will see how quickly that can happen,” he said. However, he emphasized that the path to the top of the leaderboard is a ‘matter of time’. “We need time to develop and push the process in a good direction,” he said.