Team Australia helmsman Tom Slingsby has welcomed the addition of Team New Zealand ahead of next season’s SailGP, calling NZ the final piece of the puzzle.
After his Australian team took out the inaugural SailGP event last season, Slingsby and his teammates will have to fight off the experience of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke in what looks like a formidable New Zealand line-up.
The Olympic gold medallist predicted that Team NZ would immediately be able to have success in SailGP given the experienced campaigners on the team.
“It’s a huge plus having New Zealand in SailGP. They’re right at the top of the tree,” Slingsby exclusively told Wide World of Sports.
“(Great Britain veteran) Ben Ainslie commented a while back and called them the ‘All Blacks of the sailing world’, and that they’re always extremely strong, consistent team and full of talent.
“It’s exciting for them to join, they’re the only missing piece of the puzzle when you think of the top teams around the world that weren’t competing for SailGP and now we’ve got them.”
While he admitted that he has great respect for both Burling and Tuke, Slingsby said he is as motivated as ever to get one up on New Zealand while representing his country.
“It’s really built into any Australian that we really like beating New Zealand, and they’ve got the same thing with us, that being said, I really like all the guys at team New Zealand,” he said.
“Peter (Burling) and Blair (Tuke), I’ve got a lot of respect for and I’ve been good friends with them for a long time and they’re just good people.
“I want to race against the best guys, and these guys are definitely that, but for sure there’s no better feeling for an Australian than beating a Kiwi team and a British team.
“You don’t really need too much more motivation when you see them on the start line.”
Despite Team NZ lacking SailGP experience, Slingsby predicted the team would be an immediate threat next season.
“As we saw with Ben Ainslie’s team, these cup guys, what they’re doing is so similar in the America’s Cup to what we’re doing here in SailGP in terms of the boats and the boat-handling and the teamwork,” he said.
“They’ll be just fine. They’ll be on pace for the first event and they’ll be contending for the win and they’ll be coming straight off the America’s Cup and a couple of months of intense racing so they’ll be in really good shape heading into the first event in San Francisco.”
The 2021 SailGP season will get underway on April 17, 2021 with the first event taking place in San Francisco, USA.