Spithill expects toughest challenge
The last time James Spithill sailed in Bermuda's waters he captured the King Edward VII Gold Cup.
But the stakes will be much higher when he returns to these shores in 2017 to defend the Auld Mug as the skipper of cup holders, Oracle Team USA.
The occasion will mark the first time that an American syndicate has defended the America's Cup in foreign waters, an unprecedented task Spithill takes all in his stride.
“Either way you have to be ready for one hell of a fight and in some ways it doesn't matter where you defend because it's always tough,” he said.
Spithill, who led Oracle's stunning come-from-behind victory over challengers Emirates Team New Zealand at the previous America's Cup in San Francisco, has a lot of respect for the challengers that have committed to the next event. And for good reason.
“This is the toughest group of challengers we've ever had,” he said. “Every single one of those teams has the same technology, resources and talent.
“The team that comes out of the challenger series is going to be battle hardened, and that is going to be the challenge for us.”
Spithill raced alongside Olympic great and fellow past King Edward VII Gold Cup winner, Sir Ben Ainslie, in San Francisco last year.
Since then Ainslie has formed his own America's Cup team and, if successful in the qualifiers, could come face-to-face with his former Oracle team-mate in 2017.
“Ben and I are good mates and shared a pretty special partnership in the last America's Cup,” Spithill said. “We've been racing each other for a long time going head-to-head and both have had success against each other. It would be interesting to sail against Ben. It's not a done deal to think he's going to come out of that tough group of challengers.”
Spithill is keen to sail again in Bermuda.
“I love Bermuda and think it's a great spot,” he said. “I just have to be careful on the mopeds!
“I have really good memories of Bermuda and was fortunate to have had success there in the Gold Cup.
“I think Bermuda will really get behind us as a team because of the fact that we are bringing it there.”
Spithill and his Oracle team-mates plan to set up base in Bermuda by the summer to begin preparations for next October's America's Cup World Series featuring the foiling AC45 catamaran.
“As a team we‘d like to get there soon as we can,” he said, “but that involves some logistics.
“We have workshop containers, our boats and we are going to set up a facility there as well.”