U.S. and Canada drivers Jimmy Spithill and Phil Robertson have questioned the Swiss team’s decision to recruit SailGP veteran Nathan Outteridge, claiming new teams learn best through experience.
Outteridge, who was previously driver for the folded Japanese team, will step into the Swiss F50 as driver for upcoming events in an effort to train up Sébastien Schneiter who, at 26, is the youngest driver in the league.
Speaking at a press conference ahead of the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix tomorrow, both Sptihill and Robertson welcomed Outteridge back into the league, with Spithill describing him as ‘one of the best sailors in the world’.
However he admitted he was ‘surprised’ by the decision. “My take would be that you learn more from being on the field than standing on the sidelines - so I was a little surprised,” he said.
Robertson echoed Spithill’s view, describing the decision as a ‘good move but a bad move as well’.
“You can cut corners and bring in the experience and the good thing in that is jumping towards the top of the fleet, but the bad thing is not learning lessons the hard way.”
However, other drivers in the fleet complimented the appointment, with Great Britain driver Ben Ainslie describing it as a ‘smart move’ by the Switzerland SailGP Team.
“Bringing Nathan in to understand where there are some jumps they can take in techniques and tactics and starting and so on, no doubt he’s going to have some impact in that,” he said.
Outteridge shed more light on his remit with the team, revealing that ‘improving performance’ is high on his list of priorities. He pointed to the team’s ‘9th, 9th and 8th’ finishes so far this season, adding ‘that’s not really what the team wants in terms of performance’.
Key areas for improvement are ‘starting techniques and manoeuvre consistency’. “The team was losing a lot of spots in Plymouth but not maneuvering as well as they can,” he said. Other priorities will be ‘grow the understanding of the F50’ and ‘build the crew up for Season 4’.
However, he said that the team was realistic about how long the process would take. “The team is under no illusion that we can turn it around in a matter of days,” he said, ‘it’s going to take all season.’