USA Driver Jimmy Spithill has reflected on the ‘insane racing’ action of Season 2 and predicted the top teams set to dominate in Season 3.
“It had a new influx of teams, the best sailors in the world (…) a lot of crashes, collisions, capsizes and broken bones - it really had it all.”
He reflected on the USA’s second season start in Bermuda, which saw the team ‘start off in the worst possible way with a huge crash’. However, these moments of adversity and difficulty brought the USA team closer together, he said.
“When you’re facing down the barrel of the gun and it’s match point, then you start to the see the guys who you want around you and the guys who are going to come and pick you up and not point the finger,” he said. “Season 2 really showed us that.”
He added that ‘it’s an absolute guarantee’ that ‘there will be mistakes’.
“In team sport, it’s very rare to go continually without some sort of mistake or tough defeat but the key part is that’s actually the time when you have the most [opportunity] to grow and really learn something.”
Heading into Season 3, Spithill commended SailGP for revolutionising the sport of sailing by equalising the equipment and technology used across all teams, including the identical, flying F50s.
“For the first time at the very top level, instead of it being an arms race about who’s got the resource and who hasn’t, it comes down to the team that can really get it together, go out there and make it happen.”
He added that SailGP’s decision to allow teams to access data from across all aspects of the racecourse sets it apart from other competitions.
That means that a new team entering the league is able ‘to get up to speed straight away’.
“Months before they come into the competition, they can be reviewing all the data, all the footage and listening to all the comms,” he said. ‘Never before has that been done in the sport.”
The transparency of the data, combined with equalised equipment and technology, means that winning SailGP races is ‘definitely not luck’.
“It comes down to really putting the hours in, making the correct decisions and trying to essentially outlearn the other teams.”
Championship defenders Australia proved this strategy throughout Season 2, making them the key contender for the Season 3 title, he said.
“Doing all those little things right can add up and make a difference - I think that’s what we saw with the Australian team,” Spithill said. However, dominating the top of the leaderboard means ‘you’ve got a target on your back,’ he said.
Elsewhere, Spithill highlighted Ben Ainslie’s British team as another prominent threat in Season 3.
“I thought the British team showed a lot of promise last season,” he said. He pointed to the experience of wing trimmer Iain Jensen and flight controller Luke Parkinson, who initially competed with Japan in Season 1. “Then Ben came in and really ratcheted it another level,” he added.
Predictions aside, Spithill said there are sure to be ‘surprises on the way’ in Season 3.
“I don’t think anyone would have picked us as a new team to make the Grand Final last season,” he said. “That’s the great thing about this game, you just don’t know.”