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Spithill: we are ready to build on success

Oracle Team USA defeat SoftBank Team Japan in their recent practice races Photo by Talbot Wilson

Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill said his team are ready to build on their recent practice race successes on the Great Sound while also addressing the recent controversy over the America’s Cup protocol changes.

The Cup defender came out of the initial team-on-team practice session last month sporting the best win-loss record of all five teams now in Bermuda. They stand at nine wins and two losses, just a victory ahead of Artemis Racing who won seven with three losses.

Spithill, who won Bermuda’s King Edward VII Gold Cup in 2005, and the crew of 17 looked almost flawless.

Spithill spoke to The Royal Gazette about the matter of foils — daggerboards with ‘L’ shaped tips to lift the two hulls above the water — that has been in the Cup news headlines for the past week. Asked if Team USA now had their actual AC Class racing foils to test, Spithill explained: “Yes, you are allowed a total of four foils, every team has their first two and I’d expect to see the next two sometime soon amongst the teams.”

Spithill commented on that recent Facebook debate over protocol changes and repair of damaged foils. The issues have stirred up the simmering discord between Emirates Team New Zealand, tucked away in Auckland, and some of the teams in Bermuda as voiced by Russell Coutts, chief executive of the America’s Cup Event Authority and Oracle.

Asked if this debate over the protocol change and foil repair was just a distraction, Spithill said: “It’s the America’s Cup.

“There’s always a bit of controversy and a bit of white noise around. But underlying that are some important issues. We have to set the record straight when there is misinformation about the way the sport is governed. The America’s Cup is different to most other sports. It always changes.”

“No single team or person can change the rules and to suggest otherwise, as happened recently, is simply wrong. So I think it was important for that information to come out.

“The defender has less power over the sport on the water than ever before — we’ve given that up in favour of a system where each team has one vote and is an equal shareholder. That’s never happened before and I think it’s a big step for the sport.”

“At the end of the day people can talk as much as they want on shore, but ultimately the America’s Cup will be handed to the team that wins on the water.”

That real racing starts May 26. The next training period begins tomorrow and Friday, followed by more racing next Monday through to Wednesday. The five America’s Cup class catamarans will once again match-up on the Great Sound in duels of discovery. They will be sparring with rivals to learn their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and to learn a little more about their own potential.

Spithill talked about how Team USA planned to build on their success and what their goals are going into this week’s practice racing.

“We had a good first session in the new ACC boat a couple of weeks ago,” Spithill said. “But you never stop developing. We know there are things we can do better as a team on board. And we’ve made some improvements to the boat as well. We know we can’t stop improving and we assume that’s the same for all of the teams.”

“As a team, we focus on the process of improving each day and learning. The team that outlearns the others will likely win. Our coach, Philippe Presti, has been working very hard with the sailors, and our boatbuilding and design teams have been putting in long hours. This process will continue right up until the last day of the Cup.”

Forecast for the Great sound this week look like winds will be 9-10kts tomorrow and building to over 25 by early afternoon on Friday. Teams will try to squeeze in as much sailing as they can before winds go over the upper race limits on Friday afternoon.

“The long range forecast at this time of year isn’t that reliable,” Spithill said. “We run a very flexible schedule in the team which allows us to react and maximise the time on the water.”

“We mode the boat a little bit differently for these changing conditions. The biggest mode change people would make in May and June would be in daggerboard selection but most of us only have one of the two pairs of boards we’re allowed, so we can’t make that change yet.

For America’s Cup news or updates, Talbot Wilson can be reached at 595-5881 or 278-0143