Former Japan driver and Switzerland sailing advisor Nathan Outteridge should be top of any underperforming team’s shopping list, according to SailGP’s commentators.
Both Todd Harris and Stevie Morrison said bringing Outteridge in as driver had to be a consideration for the key underperforming teams in the league, such as Spain, Switzerland and the U.S.
Outteridge was driver of Japan for two seasons and guided the team into the three-boat, winner-takes-all Grand Final in both Season 1 and 2. But Japan's participation in the league was indefinitely paused at the beginning of Season 3 due to funding issues.
“If I was a team CEO, I’d be looking at Nathan Outteridge who got to two Finals out of the two seasons he was in - he’s a serially successful driver,” said Morrison.
Harris agreed, adding that the increased pressure to perform means all teams are on ‘a shorter leash’. The beginning of Switzerland’s second season and successful debut of Erik Heil’s German team means historically underperforming teams, such as Spain, Switzerland and now the U.S., are under more pressure.
The pressure is felt most keenly by Jimmy Spithill’s American team, Harris argued, which finished in ninth place at their first home event of the season in Chicago.
“Jimmy Spithill is a great driver and when they’re good, they’re really good, but I think [SailGP boss] Russell [Coutts] wants to see them succeed - it’s important for the series,” he said. “I think he’s running out of patience - he needs them to do better.”
He highlighted the fact that the U.S. team continues to struggle while ‘Nathan Outteridge sits in the sidelines’. “He’s one of the top five sailors in the world.”
Morrison agreed, pointing to a lack of change in the U.S. squad.
“I don’t see any changes and therefore I don’t see any changes in the results,” he said. “They can’t match the competition of the fleet, and it’s not good enough for someone like Jimmy Spithill.”
He compared the stagnancy of the team to a ‘top class soccer team’, which would ‘replace the manager or coach’ after continued poor results. “They’d be bringing in new people and making changes.”
Morrison even suggested Spithill was a key player in the attempts to poach Australian crew members in the off-season. “He’s sailed with a lot of people on the Australian team,” he said. Regardless, the Aussie line-up in Chicago was unchanged.
“He hasn’t got them and the team continue to underperform and you’ve got to wonder how long that can go on.”