SYDNEY (AP) — Australian sailor Tom Slingsby has won the America's Cup and an Olympic gold medal. Still missing from his career resume is a line honors' victory in the Sydney to Hobart race.
Slingsby will be the master tactician aboard super maxi Perpetual Loyal when it leaves Sydney on Monday along with 88 other yachts in the annual 628-nautical mile race to Australia's island state of Tasmania.
The owner and skipper of Perpetual Loyal is Anthony Bell, who has made it a priority to raise money for hospital equipment for sick children. Another priority will be to finish the race after a few years where weather conditions forced the yacht to retire.
"To win the Hobart you've got to get to Hobart, and we're very focused on our leanings around that," Bell told The Weekend Australian newspaper.
Slingsby, who won a Laser gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, has been part of the fund-raising effort for sick kids.
"We've formed a really tight friendship and great mateship," Bell said. "Tommy's probably one of the best sailors in the world and refuses to take a cent out of Loyal. He converts his stuff into kids' medical equipment and that is a good statement about him as a bloke."
Slingsby is also focused on finishing — and winning.
"I've won an Olympic gold medal, I've won the America's Cup, the two biggest things in sailing," he said. "But I return back to Australia and I still get the question, 'Have you won the Sydney to Hobart?'"
Slingsby is now based in Bermuda as he prepares to defend the America's Cup title he won as strategist with Oracle Team USA in 2013.
Skippers in this year's Sydney to Hobart were told to expect favorable conditions over the opening day of sailing: a fast start on Sydney Harbour in a brisk north-easterly, and that the breeze will strengthen throughout the afternoon as the boats run down the New South Wales state coast.
That translates to spinnaker sailing in 20 to 25 knots, allowing the super-maxis to pull away from the rest of the fleet and potentially challenge the race record.
Earlier in the week, veteran Spanish sailor Juan Vila, navigator aboard race record holder Wild Oats XI, said the winner could finish in around 38 or 39 hours. That would have Wild Oats XI across the line at Constitution Dock in Hobart in about 1 day, 14 or 15 hours, well inside Wild Oats' record of 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes, 12 seconds in 2012.
There are 12 international yachts, including skipper Jonas Grander on Swedish entry Matador, Richard Stain on Britain's Samskara, Kwanymin Rho aboard Sonic from South Korea and Joseph Mele, skipper of the U.S. entry Triple Lindy.
Last year, American yacht Comanche won the storm-wracked race in 2 days, 8 hours, 58 minutes, 30 seconds. It was the first American winner since 1998 and the first foreign winner since Sweden's Assa Abloy in 2001.