Outter this World

“If you quit once, it becomes a habit. Never quit.” The words of the great Michael Jordan whose quotes seem to translate and transcend all sports, all athletes, all of the greats of our day. And down in Sydney, we had the greats of sailing on display this weekend, not quitting, performing under pressure, closing out when it mattered and coming straight back from utter despondency. There’s a new world order emerging. The King is dead. Long live the King.

©Bob Martin for SailGP

The local headlines down under will all scream ‘Slingsby’ and let’s be clear the coronation is in full flow. Us voters gave him a Rolex earlier in the month but he’s stolen the crown jewels now and sits regally on the top throne of world sailing. Tom aced the SailGP final on a fresh to frightening day out on Sydney Harbour with crew-work in the breeze that was like a well-oiled motor that needed no element of luck to ride like a dream.

Apply the pressure and something clicks in that Aussie Team, no-one, not the USA and the might of Spithill nor the young Spaniards led by Phil Robertson, could get close. They were spectators to a masterclass. Passengers on the Slingsby train.

©Patrick Hamilton for SailGP

But take your eye away from the headline and the stand-out performance was elsewhere. Having cobbled and hobbled together the Japanese rig and the British hull after yesterday’s sapping crash that removed the bow in dramatic fashion, very little was expected of Nathan Outteridge.

Just being on the start-line was a triumph of engineering, of sportsmanship on Ben Ainslie’s part (and a lot of apologies), of grit and a real, palpable determination that the show must go on but, by heck, what a show Nathan put on. It was like watching Ayrton Senna at Donington Park in the wet in 1993. It was Michael Jordan against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1990. It was Hagler versus Hearns in 1985. It was utterly amazing to watch.

©Bob Martin for SailGP

Outteridge came out smoking, smarting and twitching like he and the team had a lot to prove – to themselves as much as others. It was almost as if he were fighting for his life. You rarely see sailing like this. Clearly the laser-eyes of Grant Dalton, Kevin Shoebridge and the whole of the Team New Zealand juggernaut were on him but what they witnessed was genius on display.

No wonder Dalts was so damned confident of his signing ahead of the skipper announcement. He knew the potential of Outteridge and the sheer, unrelenting pressure he applied to a resurgent Pete Burling on the Kiwi boat in Race 4 was just astonishing. It took a penalty but the scorecard showed a win and this was quickly followed up by another to be the stand-out performer of the weekend. It was other-worldly, ‘Outter this World’ if you pardon the pun.

©David Gray for SailGP

The MVP and Player of the Day accolades deserved to be showered on Nathan Outteridge and his absolute unit of a crew. Wry smiles will be etched and chuckles will be offered on the grizzled faces of the Team New Zealand hierarchy. They know what they’ve got and it’s a potent, coming force in world sailing that is just set to get better and better.

Quite why Outteridge was overlooked for AC36 remains a complete mystery but how he handled himself then and what he’s done since is exemplary and testament to what a fine sportsman he is. He deserves the million dollar shot in San Francisco and everything is building beautifully to a stunning year in 2022. Wonderful to watch.

©Phil Hilyard for SailGP

A quick word if I may about Ben Ainslie and the British team. It’s been a humbling weekend for the guys and I’ve yet to see a more glum and despondent Ben than the Instagram post he put up yesterday, effectively apologising for simply not seeing Nathan Outteridge and wholly owning the blame for the horror crash where we were lucky not to see broken bones or worse.

It’s a horrible place for Ben right now. Commentators and the armchair Admirals were quick to jump on this incident and roll up the red carpet on his stellar sailing career. For sure, the newly appointed Director of Sport at Ineos, Dave Brailsford, will be watching. Analysis will take place and inevitable questions will be asked behind closed doors.

©Brett Costello for SailGP

I maintain it’s a racing incident. I’ll die on that hill. And we’re going to see a lot more of this as SailGP fires up and gets ever more competitive. Next year the teams will go to another level again as the America’s Cup works teams get more and more involved. Pressure makes mistakes. Errors happen. I think it’s way too early to start doubting Ben’s brilliance and start looking for alternatives – no-one but no-one comes close at this level, at the very apex, from these shores.

At the end of the day, Ben apologised and then did the absolute right thing in throwing every resource around getting Outteridge back on the water. That was classy and what we have come to expect of Ben and his team. He’ll be back. He’s good at comebacks and it’s not the time to call into question his age nor his talent. Yes the young guns are looking good but Ben proved more than a lot just before that regatta and season ending ding. You can’t write him off.

©Brett Costello for SailGP

But the tale of the tape will show Tom Slingsby as the winner of the Sydney SailGP and what a thing to do on home waters. Electric for the Aussies to sign off 2021 in such style and set up a showdown in San Francisco in March that has it all. Slingsby versus Spithill versus Outteridge for a million bucks – you could hardly script it better. I could make the case for any of them to win. I can’t call it. You can’t call it.

This is sport. This is everything. SailGP is the business.

17 thoughts on “Outter this World

  1. Errr, I think you put an apostrophe in “ armchair Admirals” where none was necessary.

    I had to turn in early because I work today, but I’ll catch the replays when I get home!


  2. Good headline, Magnus
    I got to know Nathan during the Moth Europeans at Lake Silvaplana in 2010. He won that regatta, being “cool” as he had his personell music on the boat (MOTH). Unbelievable to us mere competitors playing at the back of the fleet. The result list is showing some interesting names: Simon became European Champion and “Psaro” the Vice European Champion. The first three put some glamour on the event. Bora and Nathan fighting it out until the last day. Good times.
    1. Nathan OUTTERIDGE (AUS 3750) – 18 points
    2. Bora GULARI (USA 6) – 20 points
    3. Scott BABBAGE (AUS 7) – 44 points

    4. Simon PAYNE (GBR 1) – 44 points
    5. Arnaud PSAROFAGHIS (SUI 4) – 52 points
    6. Rob GOUGH (AUS 3731) – 76 points
    7. Matthias RENKER (SUI 3626) – 103 points
    8. Chris GRAHAM (UAE 9) – 106 points
    9. Chris RAST (USA 3768) – 106 points
    10. Jason BELBEN (GBR 3619) – 113 points


  3. Magnus,
    Despite all the Exitement SailGP creates throughout the Season IMO it has the wrong Marketing Strategy. This whole League is centered on 4 Teams & Individuals. AUS (Slingsby), JPN (Outteridge), USA (Spithill) and GBR (Ainslie).

    It feels like what the ATP in Tennis did year after year with Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. I was begging them to promote other Players.

    If SailGP continues this Strategy they will be at the dead end in a few years when these people are retiring.


    1. Psarofaghis will shake things up…Phil Robertson is a coming force. Nathan has arrived now but was on the outside before. And Burling is still right in there. Sorry, I humbly but wholeheartedly disagree with your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I wouldn’t say they entirely focus on those people, Phil got a documentary profile and the female trainees are getting a lot of attention.

      I would argue that skippers receiving disproportionate attention in team events is a problem across sailing media, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Magnus,
    Yes, Nathan Outteridge had a fantastic 2nd Day BUT he did concede later after the Racing although the F50 are OD he noticed subtle changes between his Boat and the Boat of the GBR Team. What have the GBR Tech Team done to make this Boat apparently faster than Nathans own Boat? I’d really like to know.

    You have any thoughts on that, chime in!


    1. I hear, and it’s widely known, that Ineos have been working really hard on getting rounder blocks than everyone else. They did it in cycling where they had rounder wheels than everyone else and have transferred that technology to sailing.


  5. Regarding Ben Ainslie: This Year was certainly one to forget aside from winning the Round Robin Portion of the Prada Cup & the Bermuda SailGP Event. In SailGP huge chance missed because this Season will be probably the Final One where he has Iain Jensen (Goobs) and Luke Parkinson (Parko) as Wing Trimmer and Flight Controller.

    Looking at SailGP’s Nationality Rule I think Goobs & Parko have to be subbed for British Sailors.

    Whom would you pick Magnus, if that’s the case? Any Ideas?


    1. Chris Draper and Paul Campbell James seem to be handling wings quite well currently. If there’s a passport shakeup then Japan are the ones who will struggle to fill crew.


  6. Did you know some parts of your old blog from the mid-2000s are up on the Wayback Machine? I think it’s safe to say you repudiate the post from 2007-ish that said “Coutts is a brilliant sailor, but off the water he couldn’t run a bath.”


  7. It’s not been mentioned, but worth remembering that Nathan Outteridge himself crashed into Jimmy Spithall in Bermuda … quote “ We are obviously in the wrong being on port tack, but with these boats it’s very difficult to see the boats when they are coming together, and he said he couldn’t see us at all – hence the massive impact”.

    I wonder if there was a blown assignment on Ainslie’s boat – the blind spots from the helm are a known problem and someone should be looking out – particularly in the starting box.


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