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Jimmy Spithill admits having to relearn F50s for SailGP

Jimmy Spithill

Jimmy Spithill is thrilled to hop back into the supercharged F50 but admits his work is cut out coming to grips with the upgrades to the racing class originally designed for the America’s Cup.

“It’s really cool coming back to these boats,” the multiple world and America’s Cup champion told The Seattle Times. “They’re a lot of fun and they’ve taken a significant step forward in terms of the upgrades in the foils and the wings.

“It’s pretty cool but it’s really, to be honest, almost starting from scratch. I’ve really got to relearn everything, and we’ve got a new squad together.”

Spithill last competed in the 50-foot foiling catamaran as the helmsman of American defender Oracle Team USA who were stripped of the Auld Mug by Emirates Team New Zealand at the 35th America’s Cup, which Bermuda hosted in the Great Sound in 2017.

The wing-sailed high-performance boat, the first to hit 50 knots during racing, has since been upgraded and rebranded as the F50.

They now have two grinders instead of four, a designated flight controller and have been modified to one-design specifications to ensure a level playing field in their new role as the racing class for the SailGP.

The global championship was founded by Sir Russell Coutts, the multiple King Edward VII Gold Cup and America’s Cup champion, and American business magnate Larry Ellison following Oracle’s loss to Team New Zealand.

Spithill is poised to make his debut in the SailGP as the chief executive and helmsman of United States SailGP and has assembled a formidable team that includes former Oracle team-mates Rome Kirby, Andrew Campbell and Cooper Dressler.

British wing trimmer Paul Campbell-James, a veteran of SailGP and the America’s Cup, is also among the new additions to United States SailGP team that finished sixth in the championship’s inaugural season in 2019.

“It’s going to be a good squad, but man, we’ve got some work to do,” Spithill said. “It’s going to take some time and hopefully the weather allows us to get some good training in.”

As part of the initiative to fast-track female sailors into SailGP, Spithill has also recruited highly decorated female sailors Daniela Moroz and CJ Perez who both boast extensive foiling experience.

“I think there are some awesome female athletes in our sport,” Spithill said. “I’ve sailed with a lot of fantastic female athletes. My sister raced a lot. One thing I always noticed with my sister was it was just hard to find opportunities for her to get out there. This is a great step forward. We’re pretty stoked with the two female athletes we’ve got.”

SailGP Season 2 was due to commence last May but was delayed because of the global coronavirus pandemic.

The updated season will now commence with this month’s inaugural Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess.

The regatta will be held on April 24 and 25 in the Great Sound and will be broadcast live in the United States and Canada on CBS Sports and in Britain on Sky Sports, with added exposure in more than 150 countries.

Australia, Denmark, France, Britain, Japan, New Zealand and Spain are the remaining seven national teams competing in the SailGP series.

Each grand-prix event includes two competition days, featuring five fleet races leading to a final match race between the two leaders.

Points are accumulated at each event throughout the season, culminating in a $1 million winner-takes-all championship race at the Grand Final.

Australia, helmed by multiple world champion, Olympic gold medal-winner and America’s Cup winner Tom Slingsby, are the defending champions.

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Published April 10, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated April 12, 2021 at 8:12 am)

Jimmy Spithill admits having to relearn F50s for SailGP

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