Slingby’s challenge

Australia’s Tom Slingsby has thrown down the gauntlet to the next generation.

19 February 2024


SailGP will return to the iconic waters of Sydney Harbour next week for its eighth stop in the Season 4 calendar.

With only one week to go, the hometown favourite – Australia’s Tom Slingsby – is ruffling feathers in the latest episode of Racing on the Edge, SailGP’s behind the scenes docuseries in partnership with Rolex, as he challenges SailGP’s younger generation to step up.

Filmed during the inaugural Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council, the latest instalment of Racing on the Edge, sees Slingsby – three-time SailGP Champion – make headlines during the official press conference when asked if the younger SailGP driver’s performance was on par with that of SailGP veterans like Jimmy Spithill and Ben Ainslie.


In the episode, Slingsby said: “I think I’m just being honest and I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone. I really like all of these guys, but none of them have shown me that they’re the next Ben Ainslie, the next Nathan Outteridge, Peter Burling, Tom Slingsby or Jimmy Spithill. I hope they don’t take it the wrong way, I hope it drives them because I want to face the best as well – they can come after us for that top spot.”

Trying not to take this to heart and responding to Slingsby’s remarks, relative newcomer to the fleet, Spain SailGP Team driver Diego Botín said: “I think we are making quite a big thing out of what Tom said in the press conference – the young generation in general has to prove themselves. I think Tom has a point, and the new generation is super hungry and working super hard to be able to fight and belong to the top of the table in SailGP.”

Slingsby doesn’t stand down, demonstrating his unwavering competitive spirit, as he confidently stands by his words, “even though it might look a bit weird right now,” – as he finished the event in Abu Dhabi in an unprecedented low seventh place, with Peter Burling’s New Zealand SailGP Team taking the event win. Despite this, Australia still has a healthy six-point lead at the top of the Season 4 leaderboard.

New co-owner and CEO of the United States SailGP Team Mike Buckley was quick to join the debate and pointed out the importance of not becoming overconfident in sports, recalling the New England Patriots’ experience planning a Super Bowl parade before the actual game, only to end up losing despite a strong season. Serving as a reminder that in sports, anything can happen.

The impending showdown on Sydney Harbour promises to be epic, with the younger generation determined to prove Slingsby wrong. The ten teams will push themselves to the limit, eager to demonstrate their capabilities and prove that they possess the skills necessary to compete at the highest level.

The episode concludes with SailGP CEO Sir Russell Coutts challenging the older team members’ dominance.

Coutts said: “I think there is no doubt that this league will favour younger and younger athletes. And, I think that the sport is about to change. In the future, when young sailors are able to train on the simulator and use all the learning tools to their advantage, I’ve no doubt that 20 to 25 -year-olds will be coming into this league and winning. I think it’s even possible we see an 18 year old with incredible talent coming in and winning in this league in the future.

“I think we will see a transition in the sport over the next five years. I don’t think we’ll see 45-year-old drivers in SailGP. I think those days are pretty much over now.”

Catch the latest Racing on the Edge episode – Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

The KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix gets underway in just over one week’s time on Sydney Harbor, 24 & 25 February 2024.

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