Five years ago Sail-World talked to an unbelieveably talented young duo 49er and Moth World Champion Nathan Outteridge and his mate Tom Slingsby, three times Laser World Champion and 2010 Etchells World Champion Here is part II of our interview series with them.
These two young Australian sailors Tom Slingsby and Nathan Outteridge were special guests at the 2010 Heaven Can Wait Dinner at the RMYC Toronto on Lake Macquarie. They were interviewed by Rob Kothe, Sail-World.com Publisher.
Rob: I think one of the things that we all notice is that the guys going through the Australian Sailing Team program for over the last decade were able to move to other classes very well.
I recall Tom was sailing on the lake in an Etchells regatta and won two races one day in very soft conditions. Tell us about that – who the two guys you were sailing with and what happened?
Tom: ‘We did the Etchells Nationals here sailing out of Lake Macquarie Yacht Club. I was sailing with John Bertrand, (the winning America’s Cup skipper in 1983) …. everyone knows John Bertrand and also a guy called Andrew Palfrey, who is called Doggy. He is now the head-coach of one of the TP52 teams called Artemis.
‘I remember the way I got into the Etchells. Last year they (Bertrand and Palfrey) campaigned for the Worlds and they had in the middle, doing tactics and main, Ben Ainslie. He is a three time Olympic gold medallist and a silver medallist.
He couldn’t do one of the lead-up events for the Worlds so they asked me. Doggy was coaching in the Farr 40s and asked ‘could you fill in for him?’ I thought – fill in for Ben Ainslie … I think I have big shoes to fill.
‘So we did the event and it was a Victorian State Championship and we did well – we won by a single point. Then they went on after that and did the Worlds and they led the whole way. They ended up getting a black flag and one bad result, finishing up third overall.
‘Straight away John being John (to John the whole thing is about setting up a program, he loves the journey more than the result basically) …asked Ben again but then realised he couldn’t do it because of America’s Cup commitments, so I was their next choice. They asked me if I would like to sail, I jumped at the chance immediately.
‘So Rob is talking about at the 2009 Etchells Nationals this year on Lake Macquarie. We started well, we were leading the event half-way through and then I remember, Adam Beashel who is an America’s Cup sailor also, started coming back at us and he won two races the day before, putting our lead under pressure.
‘We went out in about a five knot south easter in a 60 boat fleet in the Etchells – you can really score high results. We ended up sailing really well that day. I come from a lake the same as Nathan does, I am from Brisbane Waters down in Gosford, but it is exactly the same as lake sailing. It is flat water, very shifty and I like that.
‘I remember sitting on our front deck – we used to live on the water and I remember sitting on our front deck every afternoon doing my homework when I was doing homework – I used to sit out there and watch all the yacht sailors. I remember looking at all the angles of the gusts coming from down the bay and I remember just visualizing myself being out there – where I would tack and where I would go and that sort of stuff.
‘I remember sitting there doing that every afternoon, I’d just sit there and look at the water.
‘Only later on in my sailing career have I realised how much that has helped me and I can sort of look at a gust and know exactly what it is going to do – if it is going to knock me five degrees, if it is going to lift me 10 degrees.
‘I can see a gust and I jump on big boats these days and they are sort of shocked that I can say okay ‘we are lifting in five seconds and then five seconds after that we are going to come into a 10-degree knockdown.’
‘I can see it all ahead and they sort of struggle to understand, but it is all from growing up on a lake. You just understand the way that a gust moves.
‘That day at the Etchells Nationals was very light and very patchy and we had two very good races and two firsts, I think we moved out to about a 20 point lead.
‘It was a good day for us and we ended up winning the championship with time to spare. ‘We didn’t sail together until the Worlds this year, but we ended up winning the Worlds. ‘It is amazing to sail with those two. I have never been a member of a big team. On bigger boats communication and teamwork is all new to me. ‘Sailing with them showed me what a team should work like, the boat is completely solid when we are sailing.
Everyone has a certain role – John steers, I do the mains trimming and the tactics and Doggy does the sail changes, crew kinetics and rig changes. ‘The only words spoken are me saying ‘okay we are going to get a slight lift here’ or if I am calling a tack or a gybe – it is just the best sailing I have ever done.
I had planned to do the 2012 Worlds as the Etchells Worlds are here in Sydney in 2012.
‘I had planned to do my own team but after John asked me to sail with him again, I jumped at the opportunity. We will have the same team again in 2012. It is a real eye opener and hopefully I can take that knowledge on into future sailing of how a team is supposed to work.
‘I am trying now to replicate it into bigger teams – Farr 40s with teams of ten. Rob: What Tom didn’t say was that day, both John Bertrand and Doggy said to me the same thing, they said they learned more about light weather sailing with you, than they had ever learned before’
Of course Nathan I guess one of the things about sailing 49er is they are way more radical and way faster than those little Lasers – you’ve called them ‘Tupperware containers’.
The 49er’s have a lot more speed and it takes you onto the Moth – is that the logical thing?
Nathan: ‘As you can tell I like fast boats, I sailed Lasers a bit – you hike out, you go slow. On 49ers and Moths -You don’t really hike them, you just kind of sit there, that’s are what I told my physio anyway. I love sailing fast boats. I thrive on going fast on the Moth.
‘I am trying to bring more people into it (Moth sailing), but the goal was always to sail 49er.
‘Lake Macquarie is probably one of the best places to sail them. Everyone asks me ‘where do you want to sail if you could sail anywhere?’
‘I say on Lake Macquarie, it’s awesome, there are good winds, and it’s safe. It can get rough and you can have shifts. As Tom said, if you sail in a place where it is shifty at times you end up getting better in a place that is stable. The only thing it doesn’t have is swells but you can deal with that when you get out there.
‘I have been sailing the 49er’s now for almost five years, I guess.
‘When I saw the Moth come out – the foils – it didn’t take me long to take the step into it and go for a sail. For anyone who hasn’t sailed a Moth, and I am sure it is most of the people in this room, the first thing that you notice is that the Moth is different from any other boat – it is silent.
‘You sail in the water and can you hear this noise that is the carbon-hull splattering away and then all of a sudden it lifts and everything goes deadly silent.
‘You basically scare yourself, you are like ‘what the heck was that?’ All of a sudden you go from doing about six or seven knots to doing 15 knots and completely out of control, and you crash in about 30 seconds.
‘Then you get all the salt-water out of your nose and you pull the Moth back up and you go ‘what am I meant to be doing’?
Basically the first time I sailed at Belmont on a Moth in 2007 – I didn’t sail it for about a year after that – I took it for a test sail. When the Olympics came I just wanted something fun to do, I campaigned so hard to try and get a medal only to miss out.
‘At the time I was living down in Gosford and I was hanging out with Tom pretty much every day; we were going windsurfing every day. I got a phone call from Rohan Veal, who was a big force in grow the foiling Moth class, and he said do you want to sail a Moth?
‘I said well of course I do. What do I have to do? I was very fortunate that he sent me a boat and he said get involved with it, sail the boat and promote the class. I took Tom for a sail on it a few times.
‘The class is now growing and growing – we have the Worlds coming here to Belmont in January and I think they are expecting over 100 boats.
‘It is one of the types of boats I think, where sailing is moving forwards. We have had these traditional boats like the Lasers, the Finns, the 470s, I think the movement towards the Skiff’s and now to the Foilers is now going to take over.
‘I am not trying to take anything away from those types of boats, but I think if sailing wants to remain exciting for people to watch, then definitely the Moth is the way to go.
‘Now they are trying to put foils on various other boats – put foils on a 49er and sail a 49er on foils completely out of the water.
‘It has no control at all, like you are trapezing, the thing takes off, you are doing 15 knots and all of a sudden the foil will come out, you will nose dive and you will swing around with force and you will crash into it. You will get up and you will do it again.
‘Eventually they will get it right and you will see 49ers racing around on foils. It is exciting that something like this is happening, I am really happy to be involved in this type of sailing.
‘I think you will see a lot of people get into it and tomorrow when you see us out there racing – I think there is going to be between five and eight boats on the start line.
‘If you see us, some of us will be in control. Some of us will be completely out of control, but the most important thing is that we are going that much faster. We will try to treat you as stationary objects and go around you. If we look out of control just look into our eyes – just see the fear.
‘I haven’t sailed a Moth in a month or so and my boat is still in a box so I have to go home tonight and finish putting it together. There is a high chance that something will go wrong and it will break so if you see me swimming around out there I would appreciate a little assistance from a motor boat in getting me in – I don’t want to get eaten by a shark.
Rob: I am sure there are a lot of questions but let’s move forward to 2012. It is Moth month this month.
What happens after that Tom?
Tom: For me, Moth month for October. I sail Moths everyday, then November its back to Lasers – we have a Perth Test Event for the Worlds in Perth in November.
Going forward to Perth 2011, for almost every country that will be their last Olympic Trial Event. It is a big event for a lot of people from all over the world, some having some serious funding – they are all going to come out and race.
‘That will be my first event for the coming Laser season, then I will do Sail Sydney and Sail Melbourne in the Laser.
In between, I have now changed teams in the Farr 40s – I am sailing with Nathan and the Estate Master team, we are going to do the Worlds in February in Sydney. The Moth Worlds in January and then come April we start the whole European season again.
‘This year I was away for 4 ½ months, I will do the whole stint in Europe. I am not too sure what the program will be next year but with the Worlds being in November next year – it is a bit of a late year, so I have to figure out my season.
‘Hopefully next year I will get the Olympic spot and go for the Laser again and hopefully have a better result next Olympics than last Olympics.
Rob: For those of us who were at the last Olympics last time there was a lot of pain to see Tom drag himself up the wooden ramp to the boat park, so we are looking forward to Weymouth 2012 being way way better.
During the 49er Medal Race all the journalists sat together – Australians, Italians and the French, there was involuntary cheering when the Italians went in. All the Italian journalists waved their finger at us, but you know when Nathan went in just 100 metres from the finish line, they all cheered.
So we are looking for a better 49er Medal Race in 2012?
Nathan: ‘Since the last Olympics, I am sailing with Iain Jensen (Goobs) who I sailed with in one of the Youth Worlds.
He and I have been doing really well. We have sailed together two years now, we had a first and a second at the two previous Worlds and everything is on track at the moment. Goobs and I we have a big program ahead of us in maintaining one of the top spots in the 49er class, gaining selection, like Tom said, in Perth next year and then trying to win a Gold Medal that just sort of slipped out of my hands last time.
‘It is a big year for us in the 49ers. We are also doing various other things as Tom said – doing the Farr 40s.
‘It will be a good chance to sail with Tom and also with Olympic Gold Medallist Malcolm Page and I am really looking forward to that.
‘Obviously I have the Moth Worlds coming up. (as history records, Nathan won the 2011 Moth Worlds on Lake Macquarie a few weeks ago.) I have just bought a 505, Goobs and I are going to do the 505 World Championship at Hamilton Island (on Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef) in March. And then I am sailing the SB3 Worlds in May.
‘There is not very much time between now and March – I think I can count the number of days I am not sailing this month as being four. I think in November it reaches out to about six and December it goes back to about three. I have got plenty of sailing coming up and I had a meeting with my coach today and he tried to tell me to stop sailing so many other boats and to focus on the 49er. I said that will come in a few months time but I think he knows that I have plenty of ideas for other sailing.
‘I am sure by April- May next year we will get back to the 49ers really seriously. We will go to Europe, we will train and prepare for the Worlds in Perth – I trust we will gain selection and then the following year it is just doing what you can to make sure that you give yourself the best chance possible of winning a medal.
‘That is basically where we are at. It is good to see that other Australian have been nominated for Rolex Sailor of The Year – Tom and Malcolm (Page) and Matt (Belcher).
‘We will be well represented there, so hopefully one of them will bring home a Rolex to share with us all. (yes, Tom did, he was ISAF Sailor of the Year 2010)
In Part III, to be released later in the week, in the Question and Answer session, we will discover why Nathan’s nickname is George and why Tom is so fast at post capsize recovery. In part I last week we learned about the little fat kid, Tom early races at 20 cents a pop and Nathan hitting the tree.