Tom Slingsby has an impressive CV for a man not yet 30-years-old. Eight world championships, an Olympic gold medal and an America’s Cup victory ensure he is in high demand at all levels of sailing.
But today he confirmed that he is “off the market” as far as the next America’s Cup is concerned.
The announcement is sure to be greeted with disappointment by the Oatley family, who are putting together an Australian challenge for the 35th Match. Slingsby was undoubtedly one of the first sailors they contacted after being announced as the Challenger of Record for the 35th Match.
But while Australians may be disappointed that one of their 2012 Olympic heroes won’t be lining up in green and gold, the logic behind Slingsby’s decision to stay with Oracle can’t be faulted.
With more teams expected to challenge next time the Cup is contested, no-one sailing for any challenger is guaranteed a spot in the 35th Match – they will first have to beat all the other challengers in a long and arduous Louis Vuitton series. The only thing known for sure about the 35th Match is that Oracle Team USA will be in it.
“We’re the defenders,” Singsby said in an exclusive interview with Mysailing. “That means I’m guaranteed to be in another America’s Cup match – to have another chance at winning another America’s Cup.
“Oracle run a really good program, they’ve got a great design team and great sailors and I’m lucky to be a part of it,” he added.
Both Slingsby and Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill have expressed a desire to sail for Australia in the America’s Cup at some stage in their careers. But both know that the time is not yet right.
Australia has been out of the Cup since 2000 and the new team is a big gamble – too big a gamble for a professional sailor to stake his reputation on.
During the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco, Spithill was asked how it felt to be an Australian sailing for the USA and he replied, “Welcome to the brave new world of sailing, Brother!” He explained that he and the other “foreigners” in Team USA were professional sportsmen, just like Formula One racing drivers. They had an obligation to themselves and their families to make the best deal they could.
Although Slingsby is a died-in-the-wool Australian at heart, the USA does in fact have a claim on him. His mother Mavis is an American citizen and Tom carries both Australian and American passports.
If he was sailing at another Olympics it would be for Australia, but today he announced a break from small boat sailing.
Yachting Australia was hoping that Slingsby would switch to the Finn class for Rio, as he is now too heavy for the Laser in which he won his gold medal at Weymouth in 2012, but an ideal weight for the Finn in the light airs expected in Brazil.
“I told YA today that I’m taking a break from Olympic sailing to concentrate on my America’s Cup career,” he said. “The situation could change, but at this stage I really want to make the most of the opportunities Oracle has given me.”
- Roger McMillan