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Boatload of cash: Aussies train for $1 million SailGP finale

With $1 million up for grabs, Australian crew trains for finale of SailGP's inaugural season

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By BERNIE WILSON
AP Sports Writer

Monday, September 9, 2019

The allure of $1 million is worth extra time on the water for skipper Tom Slingsby and his Australian crew.

With the finale of SailGP’s inaugural season approaching, Slingsby and his mates are training at Sydney Harbor this week for the regatta in Marseille, France, on Sept. 20-22. After eight fleet races involving all six teams, the competition will conclude with a $1 million, winner-take-all match race between the top two teams to determine the season champion.

Barring a catastrophic accident, the Aussies and Team Japan, skippered by Australian Nathan Outteridge, are all but guaranteed a spot in the match race final after dominating the first four regattas.

The $1 million is a tremendous payout for a 10-minute race, and a serious motivator.

“It’s very rare for us to race for money,” Slingsby said in a phone interview. “And so, yeah, we usually do it for the glory but this time it’s different.”

The Australian and Japanese teams are skippered by two of the world’s best sailors.

Slingsby, an Olympic gold medalist who helped Oracle Team USA win the America’s Cup in 2013, said the Aussies are “obviously very driven” by the huge cash prize. “That’s the most money we’ve ever sailed for. I’ve basically never sailed for prize money in my life. I won 400 euros when I was 19 or 20, and that was everything. This is a big step up.”

He said that prize was in a Laser class race in the Netherlands and it allowed him to stay in Europe for another regatta.

“I didn’t have any money and needed some way to get to all these events,” he said. “Fortunately, it got me through.”

The only other million-dollar prize in sailing was in 2016 for the World Match Racing Tour championship. It was won by New Zealander Phil Robertson, the skipper of the Chinese SailGP team.

Australia leads Japan 169 points to 165. The U.S. is a distant third with 123 points, followed by Britain, China and France.

Slingsby beat Outteridge in the match-race finals at the first two regattas, in Sydney and San Francisco. Outteridge, an Olympic gold and silver medalist as well as an America’s Cup veteran, dominated the New York stop, including winning the match-race final against Slingsby. The last regatta, in Cowes, England, was shortened to one day because of bad weather, with the Australians winning all three fleet races.

The Aussies can’t use their foiling F50 catamaran for the training camp, as all the boats are controlled by SailGP organizers. So they’ll sail against a crew headed by young Aussie match racing star Harry Price in M-32 catamarans.

“Obviously there’s no boat in the world that can emulate the F50, but what we’re sailing, they are fast for a nonfoiling boat and they’re very good little match-racing boars,” Slingsby said. “The big thing for us is to just brush up on our communication skills.”

Slingsby said he’s been able to pry some extra training time for the Aussies in their F50 before Marseille.

“I feel really good,” he said. “I feel like we sort of bounced back from a tough one. Now we’re sort of back in the driver’s seat. We know Nathan will come back strong. It will come down to last day and we’ve got to make sure we’re in the right mindset and ready to roll.”

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

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