SailGP Races Around Sydney Harbour This Weekend

We sat down with Tom Slingsby, Team Australia captain and reigning champion to talk all things SailGP.

By Terry Christodoulou 27/02/2020

This weekend sees the second season of the SailGP kick off in Sydney Harbour, with the world fastest wind-powered yachts racing for a $1.5 million prize pool and of course international bragging rights.

After last year’s inaugural SailGP season, Australia were champions, and hope they’ll go back-to-back this year, starting with a win on home turf (water) this weekend.

For the uninitiated, this is not a leisurely yacht race, the teams race in F50’s, incredibly light vessels that boast state of the art carbon fibre tech rendering them capable of speeds upwards of 50 knots or 100km/h.

Photo: David Gray for SailGP. Handout image supplied by SailGP

The SailGP series sees the teams travel around the world, racing in some of the most recognisable waterways the likes of the Isle of Wight and under the Golden Gate bridge.

As was the case last year, the first destination is Sydney, with the reigning champs relishing the moment for a home-harbour advantage. However, with the addition of the Spanish and Danish team joining the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Japan and France, the promise of more boats will undoubtedly lead to more action on the water.

Before the start gun blasts the yachts into action, read our interview with Olympic gold medallist, America’s Cup winner and Team Australia’s Helmsman, Tom Slingsby to talk all things SailGP.

Sail GP Sydney


RR: With SailGp in its second year, what’s it like to be involved in a format so young and exciting?

TS: It’s really exciting, I’ve obviously done the America’s Cup for a long time and I’ve had a few more offers since, but I quite liked the ideas that Russell Coutts and Larry Ellison had about this new league and I think it is the future. America’s Cup and Olympic racing every four years is a long time to be training for one event. I think this will be good, as a country verse country format with exciting racing, exciting boats and regular events, it’s the way to make sailing a sustainable sport.


RR: How would you describe the action that takes place out on the water?

TS: It’s sailing like you’ve never seen it before, it’s not your blue blazer rosé sipping thing at a yacht club. It’s serious athletes. It’s superfast exciting racing. You don’t need a 50-foot boat to watch it from the water, you can watch it for the shoreline.


RR: Who would be Team Australia’s biggest competitor this year?

TS: Definitely team United Kingdom. They’ve got a lot of financial backing from Ineos and on paper they look the strongest and are the most well-resourced. But we won’t really know until we hit the water, none of us have sailed any of these boats since September last year so we’ll have to wait and see, there could be some new players at the front of the fleet.


RR: How do you train for something like this – I understand you don’t have access to the boats?

TS: It is tough – there are no other boats like this, and we’ve tried it in the past to train on similar boats, but it’s just not like the F50. The F50 is just so much quicker, so much more technical, we just have to go back, look at all the footage, look at the playbook at the boat, look back at our codewords for each manoeuvre and do our training mentally.


RR: What do you think is more taxing, the physicality of sailing at such speeds or the mental acuity to make decisions on the fly?

TS: I would say that it depends on the role. Everybody on the boat has a different role, so if you’re a grinder, your job is 80-90 per cent physical, they just need to know where to be at the right time, where if you’re a Helmsman, like me at the back of the boat, it’s the other way around, probably 80 per cent mental.

That split-second decision that you have to make a decision of either going on the inside of a boat or around the outside could be the difference between a collision or winning the race.


RR: With Sydney being a home race, do you get a chance to take it in while racing or is it happening too fast.

We have to do it retrospectively, during the race we just have our head down and we all just want to win so bad in front of our friends and family.  It’s something we can reflect on once we’re back onshore.


Final release tickets are now on sale for both on-water and island arena option starting at $87 for children and $125 for adults.


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