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“A frustrating lesson”: Slingsby reacts after Australia misses first final of season 4 in Abu Dhabi

Australia driver Tom Slingsby said the team’s 7th place finish in Abu Dhabi – their worst result of the season so far – ‘really hurts’ after an OCS penalty in the last fleet race pushed the Aussies 6 places down the leaderboard.

Australia was top of the leaderboard heading into the last fleet race of the weekend, but an early start penalty forced them to drop behind ROCKWOOL DEN. Australia had to finish at least 5th to make it into the Final, but struggled to recover from the penalty and finished 9th overall.

“We went from 1st place to 7th place in one race,” Slingsby said after racing. Despite this, Slingsby said the team ‘extended [their] Season 4 lead’ in Abu Dhabi. “When you think about the race to the Final, you’re always looking at the 4th place boat”. But this was poor consolation for the three-time champions – ‘it doesn’t help – it still really hurts,” Slingsby said.

The OCS penalty was incurred at the thinnest of margins, with chief umpire Craig Mitchell revealing Australia was just 11cm over the line at 0.03 seconds before the gun.

But post-racing, Slingsby argued the team experienced an error with the F50’s starting software which, he said, said the green and gold F50 was ‘going to be late to the start’.

“Obviously something went wrong in the software and we trusted it and paid the price,” he said.

There are two pieces of software used by SailGP for calculating start times. The official software – and source of truth – operates on the UmpApp from which umpires judge penalties. The second is the tactical navigation software, which runs on the F50s and is displayed on the boats’ wing screens.

The latter is used by crews to guide them to the start, but is not the official source of truth, and the accuracy of this software diminishes when the F50 is in displacement mode and positioned very close to the line, as the fleet was in the light wind conditions of Abu Dhabi.

However, SailGP is set to improve the accuracy of the start software modelling in non foiling conditions post Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi marked Slingsby’s return to the F50 after missing Dubai – another light wind event – for the birth of his first child. Light winds have plagued Season 4 so far, with teams relying on tactics and strategy to get ahead.

But Slingsby suggested that ‘there’s a lot more luck involved’ than racing in high wind conditions.

“Those starts are everything – a split second here or there, half a meter here or there – it makes all the difference,” he said. “If we were half a meter further back, we probably would have been in the top 2 and made it in the Final – and then it would have been a totally different story.”

The F50 fleet will next meet at the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix | Sydney on February 24-25.