Sailing with purpose this weekend at the Spain Sail Grand Prix, Jimmy Spithill led the United States SailGP Team to its first victory in over a year, dedicating the win to injured teammate Hans Henken.
“It was such a massive blow for the team in Italy [when Hans Henken sustained injuries during the Italy Sail Grand Prix last month], and a tough moment for us all to go through,” said Spithill. “But it also inspired us and gave us a real amount of purpose for this event. We dedicate this win to Hans.”
Henken, who is now back in the United States and recovering well, was touched by the tribute. “The entire team has put in a ton of effort and it’s awesome to see all the hard work paying off,” said Henken. “Each team is bigger than the individuals; I’m grateful for all the support and honored to be a part of this team and this win.”
Taylor Canfield, who raced with the U.S. SailGP Team in Season 1 as flight controller, joined the team for this weekend’s Cádiz event. While Canfield did not race today in the four-crew member configuration, Spithill gave full credit to his impact and contributions.
“I also want to credit Taylor,” said Spithill. “He jumped in the deep end this weekend as our flight controller, and came in with such a great attitude and hungry for knowledge. I’m really impressed with him.”
This weekend’s win – the first in over a year for the U.S. SailGP Team – cemented the team’s jump to third place overall (from its ninth place start) on the Season 4 leaderboard. It’s the team’s second final in as many events, having finished last month’s Italy Sail Grand Prix in third place.
Due to the lighter winds today, all 10 teams sailed with four people on board instead of the standard six crew. It’s up to the individual teams how to manage the reduced crew configuration and for the U.S. boat that means Spithill does double duty, being the flight controller in addition to driving the boat.
In the final podium race, the Americans started on the back foot thanks to a boundary penalty during the pre-start, which meant they needed to start behind Australia and ROCKWOOL Denmark.
“Nothing pretty about that start – it was 100 percent my fault,” said Spithill. “I didn’t see the boundary but as it turns out, that worked in our favor. “For the teams in front at Mark 1 the wind had started to go light, so we were able to jibe and lead them out of there. And that was really the race.”
The American team finished the race a full 2:30 minutes ahead of second place ROCKWOOL DEN.
Spithill gives full credit to the team for not getting rattled. “Things like that don’t faze this team. It’s something we’ve built up; it doesn’t matter where we are, we’re going to fight all the way to the end.”
Strategist and Grinder Erika Reineke echoed the ‘never give up’ mentality. “There was no doubt in my mind we had a chance; our team never stops fighting until after the finish line,” she said.
With the four-up configuration, that meant Reineke moved into the physical G1 (Grinder 1) position – working the handles to produce power for the wingsail adjustments needed throughout the racing. She joked the pre-race Red Bulls had her really charged up.
“This weekend means a lot. It marks my one-year anniversary with the team and this year it’s full circle that we take the win together. I love racing with the guys and look forward to what’s next.”
During the on-water celebrations, Spithill handed Reineke the victory wheel for the team photo, a nod to her performance and to the second anniversary of the Women’s Pathway Program, SailGP’s mission to increase women’s participation at the highest level in the sport.
SailGP turns next to the Middle East for the Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas on December 9-10.