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Slingsby’s Aussies go for SailGP hat trick at Saint-Tropez

September 10, 2021 GMT

Tom Slingsby’s Team Australia will go for a hat trick this weekend in the SailGP global league’s regatta in Saint-Tropez, France.

The Aussies had dominating wins in the last two regattas, in England in mid-July and Denmark three weeks ago, even though they weren’t at full strength while crew members were either competing in the Olympics or tending to family matters. Those two wins followed an uncharacteristic last-place finish in Italy in early June.

With the return of grinder Sam Newton for the racing Saturday and Sunday, Slingsby has his front-line crew back on the Aussies’ foiling 50-foot catamaran. Flight controller Jason Waterhouse returned for the Denmark regatta after missing two regattas due to the Olympics and grinder Kinley Fowler also was back after missing a regatta to be with his wife for the birth of their second child. Newton has been in Australia with his family.

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“These are guys who’ve been unfortunately unable to attend all the events through Olympics or having kids or being stuck in Australia,” Slingsby said Friday. “ Now we’ve got our full team, we’ve got no excuses, that’s for sure. So hopefully we can perform with these guys because in my eyes that’s our A team.”

Slingsby steered the Aussies to the inaugural season championship in 2019 and the $1 million, winner-take-all prize.

Australia leads the season 2 standings with 32 points, followed by Sir Ben Ainslie’s British team with 30 points and Nathan Outteridge’s Team Japan with 28 points. The United States, skippered by two-time America’s Cup champion Jimmy Spithill, is fourth with 26 points. France (24), Spain (23), New Zealand (23) and Denmark (22) round out the fleet.

The Aussies struggled in light air in finishing last in Italy. Some races in that regatta, as well as the podium race in Denmark, were sailed with crews of three instead of five due to light wind. The Aussies dominated Britain and Japan in the podium race in Demark.

There could be more light-air sailing this weekend on the Mediterranean.

“I think we’re just constantly trying to improve,” said Slingsby, an Olympic gold medalist and former America’s Cup champion. “ We’re very open and candid about knowing where other teams are stronger than us and who they are and what we can learn from them and we’re just sort of on this constant evolution trying to improve.”

Slingsby still sees Ainslie’s team as one of the Aussies’ fiercest competitors in the fleet.

“If I’m honest, I think Ben is going to be strong,” Slingsby said. “He got beaten for the first time at the last event and, for sure, he will come back strong.”

Ainslie, a four-time Olympic gold medalist and former America’s Cup champion, won the podium race in the season-opening regatta in Bermuda after Slingsby’s crew dominated the fleet racing. Ainslie missed the next two regattas to be with his wife for the birth of their second child.

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Meanwhile, U.S. wing trimmer Paul Campbell-James could be back in action after breaking a leg three weeks ago during a training mishap the day before the Denmark regatta began.

The team said Campbell-James had a good evaluation Friday but that Spithill wants to wait until Saturday morning to make the final call.

Jason Saunders, who replaced Campbell-James in Denmark, was flown in to be standby.

After having surgery, Campbell-James underwent an aggressive rehabilitation program.

“The determination and resolve Paul’s shown these past few weeks to recover has been incredible and is a real motivator for our team,” Spithill said. “So far this season, our team has faced more adversity than any other team in the championship but we continue to fight back and climb the standings.”

Taylor Canfield, a world champion match racer, will replace U.S. flight controller Rome Kirby, who has personal commitments.

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