Summer job

Tom Slingsby is trying to reprise the spirit of Australia II’s epic 1983 America’s Cup victory, devoting this summer to weld together a locally-backed Aussie team to challenge in New Zealand in 2021.

Written by Scott Alle

24 October 2017


Do you come from a land down under?
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover

Back in 1983 those words in Men at Work’s Down Under captured the rebellious mood and became a battle hymn which galvanised support for the underdog Australians taking-on the might of American sailing in their own pond.

When Australia II triumphed by 41 seconds in the deciding seventh race of the America’s Cup there was a spontaneous outpouring of national pride those of us around at the time still remember, and have seldom experienced since.

Now one of Australia’s best sailors, Tom Slingsby, America’s Cup winner, Olympic Gold medallist and six-time world champion, is focussing on reviving Australia’s AC fortunes – and he’s finding it a battle worthy of all of his legendary determination.


“The goal is to get an Australian team for the next America’s Cup. I’m working with a few people to make that happen,” Slingsby revealed at a recent charity event.

“The time is right now. I mean the pool of talent we have; from the Olympic classes, and in the AC (America’s Cup), you see Nathan Outteridge on Artemis, Glenn Ashby on Emirates Team New Zealand, myself, Jimmy Spithill. I’m going to dedicate all summer to trying to make that happen”, he vowed.

But 34 years on from the heady victory In Newport, Australia is a very different place. For start there is no Bondy. The WA Inc scandals, the wrangling over debts and bankruptcy, the court cases and eventually jail have tainted Alan Bond’s legacy but his drive, passion and financial support were central to Australia II’s triumph. No-one can deny his place in securing the Cup for Australia, and it seems finding a Bondy 2.0 is a big ask.

“It is about getting investors and more importantly getting the right investors.” Slingsby explains.  “Some people won’t invest because they don’t know a certain person already in the syndicate. It’s very political the way it goes together.”

Among the names mentioned as potential backers of an AC campaign are the Oatley family, and Ervin Vidor, the co-founder of the Toga group with his wife, Charlotte. But Slingsby acknowledges the history of failed bids has scared-off a number of prospective supporters, and he’s having to navigate an unfamiliar environment – that of securing corporate sponsorship.

“Money is the main hurdle, ‘I’m learning about it all now,” he says with a grin. “There’s so much interest, but in truth a lot of people have been burnt by the America’s Cup in the past for whatever reason. Whether it’s the government trying to get an America’s Cup event in the past on Sydney Harbour – they’ve gone through billions then it hasn’t come through. They feel jaded and say weren’t not going to support that”.

And the clock is ticking. Already four teams are confirmed, Team New Zealand as the defender, Italy’s Luna Rossa, Sir Ben Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR team, and the New York Yacht Club, which recently announced its return to the AC challengers’ ring.

With the return to monohulls confirmed, on November 30 key stakeholders will receive more information on the designated AC75 Class – a 75 foot high performance monohull.

The new boats will be governed by the AC75 Class Rule which will be published by the 31st March 2018, while the entry for challengers opens on January 1 and closes on the 30th June 2018.

There hasn’t been an Australian syndicate in the America’s Cup since 2000 and Syd Fischer’s shoestring Young Australia effort. Of course, that campaign was notable for the debut of a precocious 19 year-old James Spithill as skipper.

Despite their prodigious combined talent, Spithill and Slingsby couldn’t overcome the technical superiority displayed by the Kiwis in Bermuda in AC 35 and now Slingsby is attempting to re-kindle Australia’s love affair with the America’s Cup.

“You really need to channel the 1983 feeling that existed back then,” he says enthusiastically.

“The Kiwis have this incredible national pride. They all know it [the America’s Cup] they all love it and they wear their heart and soul on their sleeve. We just need a catalyst to get that back for Australia.”

A catalyst and around 100 million dollars. Vale Bondy.


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