Jimmy Spithill looks to positives from mixed previous season
Jimmy Spithill, the United States SailGP helmsman, says there were positives to take away from the team’s disappointing performance in the Great Sound last year.
The Americans were eliminated on the second and final day of racing in the season opening Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess after their boat sustained considerable damage in a collision with Japan and capsized.
“We had a half-decent first day and we were looking good to qualify for the final race,” Spithill told The Royal Gazette. “Unfortunately Japan took us out; they made a big mistake.
“Nathan [Outteridge, the Japan helmsman] apologised, but obviously it was pretty unfortunate and frustrating.
“But in some ways it was good because we got to see had we hired the right people and how we are going to respond because we were put to the bottom of the table with the Japanese.
“So for both teams to really fight their way back during the season and then make the final was a good statement.”
The Americans went on to finish third in the overall championship behind Australia, the two-times defending champions, and Japan, and are now keen to build upon that display during Season 3, which begins on Saturday.
“We did a good job as a new team to finish on the podium in Season 2,” added Spithill, who took over from Season 1 helmsman Rome Kirby.
“Now we want to try and keep building on that; try and catch up with the Aussies because clearly they are the benchmark and I think the British are very good as well
“You look at the competition out there, it clearly is the best in the world, so it was a good first hit for the US team to make it to the final. But we obviously want to keep building on that and take another step.”
Spithill says his team’s preparations for the Season 3 opener are coming along nicely.
“So far the training has been going really well,” he said. “We have some new team members, so obviously that’s going to take a bit of time to gel.”
Among the new faces is flight controller Hans Henken.
“Hans is doing flight control for the first time, so we have really been putting the work in and just trying to get some hours in for him, and he has been doing a great job,” Spithill added. “We are also trialling another guy. He won’t race with us for this event but we have just been trailing him this week.
“Like any sporting team you need to have some depth to account for injuries or sickness. So that’s why we are constantly adding team members and always on the lookout for talent.
“Last season we had broken bones and some guys were sick, so you got to be covered just like any sporting team. You have to have a good squad just in case something happens; that’s why we are taking this opportunity to add some athletes.”
Despite the forecast for light to moderate breeze, Spithil expects some exciting racing, thanks to the wing, foils and rudders that teams have at their disposal for such conditions.
“We have the light-wind foils and rudders, but more importantly we have the big wing, the 29-metre wing,” he said. “So that’s key because the boats can foil and race in pretty light winds now.
“That’s what makes the F50 such a cool boat because there’s no other boat in the world that can operate in those sort of conditions and still make it real exciting. The boats are still foiling going fast.
“I don’t think there will be any problem. I think we will be able to get through the race for sure.”
The wing-sailed foiling F50 catamaran was designed for the 35th America’s Cup Bermuda hosted in 2017 and has since been modified to a strict one-design class.
“You look at the America’s Cup and it’s the fastest boat always wins,” Spithill added.
“The beauty of SailGP is everyone has the same equipment, so there’s no excuses. It really does come down to the best team.”