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SailGP Explained // The helmsmen

6 AUGUST 2019News
  • Australia
  • Tom Slingsby
  • China
  • Phil Robertson
  • France
  • Dylan Fletcher
  • Great Britain
  • Japan
  • Nathan Outteridge
  • United States
  • Rome Kirby
Australia SailGP Team helmsman Tom Slingsby

Get to know a little more about the men behind the whee

Tom Slingsby // Australia SailGP Team

Hailing from Gosford in New South Wales, Australia, Tom Slingsby grew up sailing, coaxed into the sport by his father and older sisters at age seven. His famous friendly rivalry with fellow SailGP helmsman Nathan Outteridge, started at their home club, shortly after they began racing against each other in school. With eight world championships, an America’s Cup victory and an Olympic Gold on his resume, Slingsby is considered Australian sailing royalty.

This is the first time that Slingsby has taken on the role of helm and CEO and is reveling in the challenge of building and developing his own team, which comprises of some of the best and fittest Australian sailors who are extremely patriotic, as demonstrated by the enormous kangaroo on their green and gold F50.

When he’s not on the water, Slingsby can be found studying Jiu Jitsu (a discipline in which he has earned his blue belt), kitesurfing, or playing with his English bulldog Nala, who features heavily on Slingsby’s Instagram account.

China SailGP Team helmsman Phil Robertson.

Phil Robertson // China SailGP Team

It’s possible that Phil Robertson is here today because of the sport of sailing. It’s how his parents first got together. The Auckland, New Zealand, native estimates his first experience sailing was at about two years old, long before he can remember. Robertson is no stranger to putting a team together and has been a prominent figure on the match racing circuit from a young age, finally realizing his dream by being crowned match racing world champion in 2016.

He’s passionate about the development of new talent and working hard with Team Principal Bruno Dubois to help cultivate the future of high-performance sailing in China.

An all-around sportsman, he’s also completed an Ironman, and plays soccer and rugby. When he’s not competing himself, he can be found cheering on New Zealand sports teams.

Robertson is truly a jack of all trades and worked as a carpenter for five years before he started sailing full-time. His secret to performance? While his teammates are taking performance gels during racing, he opts for good old-fashioned baby food.

France SailGP Team helmsman Billy Besson.

Billy Besson // France SailGP Team

Bill Besson came home from the hospital a few days after his birth to his family’s sailboat in Tahiti, and the sport stuck.

He’s known for his sixth sense when it comes to racing multihulls, boasting six world championship titles in the Dart 18, F18, and Nacra 17 classes.

Alongside SailGP, Besson is campaigning for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, sailing with Marie Riou who he has a dynamic partnership with, and one that saw him recruit Riou as flight controller on the F50.

Besson’s theme song? Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival. He’s a massive fan of the band. Between all of the catamaran racing, Besson can be found biking, surfing or paddle boarding.

Great Britain SailGP Team helmsman Dylan Fletcher.

Dylan Fletcher // Great Britain SailGP Team

Dylan Fletcher has moves. Raised by two professional ballet dancers, it’s no wonder the British helmsman makes it look so easy on the water. Fletcher began sailing at age eleven, and quickly caught the winning bug at his local club of Northampton. He is a 49er world champion and is currently campaigning for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics with fellow SailGP team mate Stu Bithell.

Fletcher loves the technical side of the sport and when not sailing the F50, can be found sailing his new moth class dinghy in his home town of Weymouth, the home of the London 2012 Olympic Games, learning everything there is to know about foiling and how to make a boat go fast.

Fletcher’s extremely active; playing tennis, surfing, climbing, and soccer are all in his athletic repertoire. His pre-racing ritual? A good cup of coffee will do it for Fletcher.

Japan SailGP Team helmsman Nathan Outteridge.

Nathan Outteridge // Japan SailGP Team

Nathan Outteridge grew up at the same sailing club as Tom Slingsby, but with a few years head start on his rival; he started his sailing career at age four. He has 19 world championship medals across a number of different classes, one of which he shares with his sister Haylee in the Nacra 17 class. His accolades include gold and silver Olympic medals in the 49er class, and he was part of the original test team for the F50 catamaran.

Outteridge, considered one of the most talented sailors of high-performance foiling boats, has put together a team of top international talent and experienced and emerging Japanese sailors.

Best blooper? Teammate Luke Parkinson said his favorite career moment is when Outteridge fell off the Artemis Racing AC50 mid-race in the 35th America’s Cup. Outteridge is an avid kiteboarder and windsurfer, but his off-water time has been more recently focused on his 6-month-old son, Jack. Next career move? Coaching Jack in his first regatta.

United States SailGP Team helmsman Rome Kirby.

Rome Kirby // United States SailGP Team

Growing up in Newport, Rhode Island, the sailing capital of the United States, it’s hard not to fall in love with the sport, especially when your father is the local sailing hero having competed in (and won) the America’s Cup and sailed around the world three times.

But Kirby was convinced he would be an ice hockey star as a youngster. Thankfully, another career path opened itself up, and Kirby started sailing professionally. Kirby is an America’s Cup winner, matching his father, Jerry, and has two round the world ocean races on his long list of accolades.

Kirby isn’t always on the water, he’s also an avid golfer and snowboarder when he has some downtime. His idea of retail therapy is Home Depot, and he has a special affection for his pressure washer. Something you might not know about Rome? He has a unique food obsession: he puts gummy bears in the freezer and microwaves his ice cream.