Two-time America’s Cup champion Jimmy Spithill, who previously helmed ORACLE TEAM USA through 2017, has returned to the red, white and blue as the new CEO and helm of the “new look” United States SailGP Team and is looking towards making his mark on SailGP’s biggest season yet - taking in eight events across three continents worldwide.
“It was an awesome opportunity to build on what the team had started and get back into high-level racing,” says Spithill on his return to a US team and arrival in SailGP. “It looks like an awesome circuit, with very fast, cool boats, and the best sailors in the world.”
Spithill’s SailGP debut just so happens to see him back in Bermuda, just shy of four years after an America’s Cup disappointment on the Great Sound, when ORACLE TEAM USA were beaten 7-1 by challenger Emirates Team New Zealand after successive wins in Valencia in 2010 and San Francisco in 2013.
“[Being back in Bermuda] is awesome,” adds Spithill, who lived in Bermuda from 2015-2017. “The Great Sound is such a great venue for racing… it feels like a real stadium.”
The 41-year-old’s arrival in SailGP also sees him helming the cutting-edge F50 catamaran, the successor to the AC50 sailed in that 2017 America’s Cup campaign in Bermuda. Improvements have been made to increase top speed, flight control and wind limits since Spithill’s experience four years ago, and it’ll be interesting to see how he copes as he gets to terms with the new platform.
The US team will have a unique advantage heading into Season 2, with Season 1 helm Rome Kirby being moved to the flight controller position now that Spithill has taken the wheel and it could prove an effective strategy given Kirby has significant insight into how the F50 flys. Spithill is now in the unique position of being the only SailGP helm to boast a fellow F50 helm on his team, so will he be leaning on Kirby for help as he gets up to speed with one of these cutting-edge boats?
“Rome and I have worked together in numerous successful campaigns, and have a great relationship on and off the water,” replies Spithill.
How about the chance of friction between the pair?
“The only friction comes from which NFL team he supports!”
However, there may be other scores to settle on the racecourse this season as Spithill joins the team fresh from Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli’s America’s Cup defeat at the hands of Emirates Team New Zealand last month.
Selected as one of two helms for the Italians, Spithill came up against New Zealand’s dynamic duo Peter Burling and Blair Tuke but was once again on the wrong end of the scoreline - going down 7-3 on the Hauraki Gulf.
Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that Spithill had bested Sir Ben Ainslie in the Prada Cup before meeting his match in Burling and Tuke, setting up multiple charges for revenge in SailGP Season 2.
Spithill knows achieving success will not come easy and the USA team will need as much time in the F50 as possible to match the teams involved in SailGP’s maiden season – a goal he says the team is willing to put in the hours towards.
“We have a lot of work to do to catch up to the other teams who have a season under their belts,” he adds. “Plus, we are a new team, and sailing together for the first time.
“But we look forward to the challenge.”
The challenge of Season 2 is only the start for Spithill and this new-look US outfit, however, as he finished by outlining his vision for the team moving forward.
“Firstly,” Spithill concludes, “we want to be competitive, build the brand and create commercial value for our partners. But ultimately, we’re aiming to inspire growth and inclusivity in the US for the next generation.”
So the goals have been outlined, and the season is almost upon us.
It’s now up to Spithill & Co. to start fulfilling them as they prepare to take to Bermuda’s iconic Great Sound for the start of SailGP Season 2.