Slingsby, Aussies look to tighten grip on SailGP lead

Two-time defending champion Tom Slingsby and Team Australia will be missing a key crewman and facing their least-favorite conditions when SailGP resumes Season 3 this weekend in Singapore.

In other words, no one should count out the unshakeable Aussies, who are looking to start firming up their shot at reaching the $1 million, winner-take-all season finale in four months.

The Aussies are coming off a stunning finish in Dubai two months ago when they reached the podium race only after their rivals from New Zealand committed a penalty in one of the fleet races, and then sailed to victory after British skipper Ben Ainslie made a critical mistake at the final mark.

It was perhaps the most remarkable performance in three seasons of tech billionaire Larry Ellison’s global league. Then again, as long as the Aussies can keep their 50-foot foiling catamaran, nicknamed the Flying Roo, in one piece, they’ve got a chance.

Team Australia sits atop the leaderboard with 60 points, followed by New Zealand with 51, France 50 and Britain 48. The top three teams will reach the $1 million, winner-take-all Grand Final at the end of the San Francisco regatta May 6-7.

As if the Aussies needed any help, New Zealand will be docked four points in this regatta and two points in the season standings after colliding with the United States during practice starts Thursday.

Slingsby, an Olympic gold medalist and former America’s Cup champion, has dominated SailGP since it was launched in 2019 by Ellison and Russell Coutts, a five-time America’s Cup winner from New Zealand.

“Four events to go, the way I look at the calendar, this event in Singapore is the trap for us,” Slingsby said. “We’ve never raced here before, it’s light airs and Kyle Langford, our wing trimmer, had to withdraw from the event. This is the one I see as a tough one for us.”

Langford, also a former America’s Cup champion, injured his back last weekend and couldn’t travel. He’ll be replaced by Ed Powys.

Slingsby said his crew has plenty to work on after sailing a less-than-perfect regatta in Dubai. They were eighth in the nine-boat fleet after the first three fleet races and then benefited from mistakes by their rivals. Slingsby said it looked like there would be a massive swing in the standings in favor of New Zealand, but then “the whole thing sort of got spun around so quickly.”

“A lot of things outside of our control had to go our way, and they did,” Slingsby said. “So, I sort of think of that as luck more than skill. But I am super proud of our team.”

This will be the first regatta since Misland Capital joined Ainslie and Chris Bake as owners of the British team at a valuation of $40 million. The investment by Misland Capital in December means Ellison’s Oracle Racing no longer owns any portion of the British team.

“We obviously see a lot of potential in the league,” said Ainslie, the majority owner.

Ainslie also heads a British team in the America’s Cup. He is a former America’s Cup champion and the most-decorated sailor in Olympic history, with four gold medals and a silver.

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Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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