‘Teammates one day, enemies the next’: Australian sailing star Tom Slingsby to represent USA at America’s Cup, SailGP

One of Australia’s greatest ever sailors will swap the green and gold for the stars and stripes when he represents the United States at the next America’s Cup.

Tom Slingsby is taking the world of sailing by storm at the moment as the helmsman for the all-conquering Team Australia in SailGP that was recently crowned team of the year at the World Sailing Awards.

With a four-point lead on top of the SailGP season three leaderboard, Team Australia is on track for its third consecutive championship in the series if all goes well.

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Slingsby is a man in demand and will soon get a chance to add to his glittering sailing resume, which already features a gold medal in the laser class at the 2012 London Olympics and line honours victory on Perpetual Loyal in the 2016 Sydney to Hobart.

The 38-year-old is now gearing up for a lengthy preparation for the next America’s Cup, to be held in Barcelona in September-October 2024.

But Slingsby won’t be representing Australia, which hasn’t had a boat compete in the final head-to-head series since its failed defence of the Cup in 1987, largely due to a lack of funding after the iconic triumph of Australia II in 1983.

Slingsby was the strategist for Oracle Team USA’s America’s Cup win in 2013 and will once again represent the US’ boat “American Magic” in 2024.

New Zealand has won the last two editions of the fabled competition in 2017 and 2021 and American Magic will be the favourite to win the lead-in Challenger Series and get the chance to take on the Kiwis in the head-to-head series.

Australia has produced some of the best sailors in the world and after Jimmy Spithill skippered Team USA to victory in 2010 and 2013, an Aussie racing for the Yankees isn’t unheard of.

Slingsby is half-American, meaning there will be a hint of patriotism when he lines up for the US in 2024.

“I’ve actually got a US passport and I’ll be competing for American Magic in the next America’s Cup,” Slingsby told news.com.au.

“It is exciting. I’ll be moving to Barcelona next year and will be working with the American team to try and win the America’s Cup and take it back to America.

“I’m an Aussie through and through, everyone knows that. I’ve even told the Americans, ‘Look I’m an Aussie’.

“My mum is fully American and I’m proud that I can race for both. I’ve got an Australian and a US passport. My dad’s 100 per cent Australian. My mum’s 100 per cent American.

“I was born and raised in Australia. I think of myself as an Australian but if I can compete for any other country I’m glad it’s the US and I can make my mum proud.”

SailGP is going from strength to strength and with more teams and races being added every season, Slingsby will have to manage a unique juggling act in the lead-up to the America’s Cup.

“I will still be doing all my SailGP events,” he said.

“That was a non-negotiable in my contract. I said ‘I’m here to stay with SailGP and I want to keep my role with Team Australia’ and they’ve allowed that. I’ll be competing in all the events.

“It is going to be tough. For sure my schedule is crazy. I’m going to be working full-time in Barcelona and I get one week a month to travel to a SailGP event around the world and then straight to Barcelona and straight back to full-time work.

“It’s going to be very tough for sure and it’s going to be tricky to manage. Being the CEO of Team Australia I may need to bring in some help on the managerial side with the administration.”

There is some overlap between the American Magic team and Team USA’s SailGP team, meaning Slingsby will find himself in the unusual position of training with them one day and competing against them for Australia in SailGP the next.

Asked if there could be some awkward moments when his new American teammates become the enemy, Slingsby said: “There could be. I think there will be, yes. There are some of the American America’s Cup team that do race on the American SailGP team. Yeah, that will be a factor.

“So we’ll be teammates one day, enemies the next and then teammates again as soon as the event finishes with SailGP. That’s kind of the fun. We’re all professional athletes. We get that it’s competition. That’s fine for me. I have no issues doing that.

“Wearing the two hats, leading the Australian team to racing for the US team, for me it’s fine.”

SailGP has been likened to Formula One on water and the innovative series where all teams race the same F50 boats is rapidly expanding and has seen Slingsby rub shoulders with royal families and Red Bull’s F1 team.

“It’s unbelievable actually,” Slingsby said of SailGP’s growth.

“I was probably the first person hired at SailGP back in 2018 when Russell Coutts and Larry Ellison came to me and said, ‘Look, we want to start a new league and we want you to be a part of it’.

“Just to think of where we’ve come from. Season one I think we had five events and six teams. Season two we had eight events and eight teams. And then Season three we’ve got nine teams and 11 events. And the plan is for 16 teams and 20 plus events in a couple of years.

“The growth is unbelievable. It was essentially a start-up a couple of seasons ago. To see where it is now where we can have Princess Kate come and jump on the boat in the UK and Princess Mary and Prince Frederik jump on the boat in Denmark.

“To see the Red Bull F1 team Max Verstappen, who’s arguably one of the biggest sport superstars in the world, and Checo Perez so interested that they want to come and see what we’re doing. It’s humbling I guess.

“It’s showing sailing is really making some inroads into the sporting world. It’s showing that it’s not the old sailing you used to know. It’s a different sport now. It’s exciting, it’s fun, it’s fast, it’s dangerous and it’s good for fans – spectators on shore and spectators watching on TV. The experience is a great one.

“We’ve really rejuvenated the sport. Exciting times and I can’t wait to see what happens in the future.”

There are five events left in SailGP season three including the next stop in Dubai this weekend.

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