Tom Slingsby accepts Great Britain and Japan are sure to prove a tough opponent for Australia at the France Sail Grand Prix this weekend.
Having won each of the past two SailGP events – in Plymouth and Denmark respectively – Slingsby’s Aussie team currently sits top of the Season Championship, two points ahead of the Brits with Nathan Outteridge’s Japan a further three behind.
Australia’s ongoing success is all the sweeter for Slingsby and his crew seeing as their victory in Aarhus was secured despite some of the lightest winds of Season 2 so far. The Driver has never shied away from admitting his weakness in light-air conditions, especially when compared to the ‘wind whisperer’ Outteridge, and he expects the Japanese to be challenging at the front of the fleet once again this weekend in Saint-Tropez.
“Obviously we are coming off a high winning the last two events, but we know this sort of high won’t last forever,” said Slingsby at the France Sail Grand Prix press conference. “We will get beaten soon.
“But the team has a really good energy right now and we are sailing confidently, and I’m really proud as skipper and CEO of the team that we are sailing so well.
“But for sure Nathan is licking his lips at the light-air forecast and is very pleased with that, but anyone can win - that is clear to see.
“We’ve had issues with light winds in the past but we’re fixing them and have been quite strong in the last two events.”
Slingsby’s win in Aarhus was also a special achievement for the skipper, as it marked the first time he claimed victory over Ben Ainslie in SailGP. The British Driver appeared to have the Aussies’ number in the global championship, until penalty drama in the DenmarkSGP Final saw Slingsby claim the win, ahead of Japan and the Brits who ranked second and third respectively.
“If I’m honest I think Ben is going to be strong [this weekend],” continued Slingsby. “He got beaten the first time at the last event and, for sure, he will come back strong.
“Ben is so good because he’s been in that situation since he was 19 in the Olympics racing for a Gold medal. He’s been in that situation so many times with that pressure, and SailGP is the same sort of pressure. We race for two days and get put in a podium race where it’s winner-takes-all - and that is what he is good at.
“He’s got more experience than the rest of us up here, and that is why he is so hard to beat.”
The Aarhus drama occurred as Great Britain were penalised in the Final after an appeal by Japan, with the penalty call widely considered a controversial one.
On the decision, Outteridge said: “For us it was a 50-50 call in the moment, and looking back on it it looks like there was maybe plenty of space in there. At the end of the day we are competitors and we use the rules to try and get good results as well as how we race on the water, and if that scenario developed in anyone’s position you’d flag it and see what happens.
“We have a bit more guidance from the umpires now as to what would happen in that situation.
“So we got a bit lucky with the penalty and that got us the second, but I’d prefer to be sailing really well and not having to push buttons and instead get results on merit.”