U.S. Driver Jimmy Spithill has reflected on the team’s disastrous performance in Chicago, admitting the team have ‘no excuses’.
The team failed to perform in front of the home crowds lining Navy Pier and finished the weekend with an 8-9-7-7-3 racing record and 8th on the overall leaderboard. It comes after the team kicked off the season with an average opening performance in Bermuda last month, in which they finished 5th overall. Spithill admitted the team ‘haven’t started Season 3 as we hoped’.
“One of the best things about sport is that it humbles you, you are never safe - and at the top level, things can change at any time,” he said.
Reflecting on Chicago, which saw the team struggle to control their F50 in gusty conditions, Spithill said the team was ‘unable to execute clean starts and consistent manoeuvres’.
The teams grappled with the additional challenge of racing in the freshwater of Lake Michigan for the first time. Freshwater, which has a lower density than salt water, increased boat speed by about 5% and meant takeoff speeds needed to be around around 2 km/h higher for the boats to foil.
“The freshwater racing was really different for the teams as the foils react differently - you need more speed to lift, and it’s tougher to stay flying when you do,” Spithill said.
Ahead of the the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix | Plymouth next month, Spithill said the team would be reviewing the ‘footage and data’ from the weekend to ensure they ‘learn the lessons’ of what went wrong.
“These tough moments are a great test for high level teams: we’ve dug ourselves this hole, and we’ve got to figure out how to climb back into contention,” he said. “We have to keep working hard and cut out silly errors and mistakes on the water - myself included”.
He emphasised his confidence in the team, adding “I believe we have the right tools and the right people.”
Reflecting on the wider fleet, Spithill said the collective quality of racing on the SailGP circuit is ‘rising all the time’
“It’s no coincidence that the teams with more reps and hours together tend to be the ones at the top - having said that, it’s now not strange to see someone win a race, and then finish in the back in the following race,” he said. “This shows that any team can win.”
Aside from the team’s performance, Spithill described the event as a ‘massive success’.
“The atmosphere was incredible (…) it’s probably the closest thing to a sports stadium that I’ve seen in sailing,” he said. “Honestly, those fans deserved a victory, and we hope to come back and give them a better performance.”