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SailGP’s Team USA Back in the Saddle in Italy — Almost

USA’s Collision Gives Japan the Win at SailGP Taranto Event

At this weekend’s SailGP event in Taranto, Italy, Jimmy Spithill and Team USA brought a sense of urgency, flair and a bit of Italian machismo. It was a “homecoming” of sorts for the America’s Cup star, who previously served on Luna Rossa in AC 36.

Spain, US and Japan SailGP boats in Italy
USA reaches the finals against Teams Japan and Spain on the strength of two dominant wins on Day 1.
© 2021 Ricardo Pinto / SailGP

Unfortunately for the American team, they came up short with an ill-timed collision with a foreign object as they rounded the fourth gate for the final upwind leg, handing the final’s win to Nate Outteridge and Team Japan. The US team had a comfortable lead into the finish line at the time. Spain moved to the top of the leaderboard for the season championship. For the first time in the last three events, someone with a name other than Sir Ben Ainslie stood atop the victory podium. Ainslie sat this one out for reasons that haven’t quite been fully explained.

Japan celebration
Team Japan celebrates their victory after Team USA withdrew from the last race following a collision.
© 2021 Bob Martin / SailGP

SailGP organizers opted for just three crew onboard rather than the usual five because of the light-air conditions. This put a premium on crew work for those on board having to do the jobs of two people — and in some situations, three!

“With three people on board you don’t have much time to look at the competition. When the United States wiped out it was a really easy decision to tack straight away. That effectively won us the race,” said Outteridge. “We’ll thank Jimmy Spithill for that one!”

“Extremely tough way to end it,” said Spithill. “We were really sailing a perfect race. All we had to do was round the mark and head to the finish. Now I know how a Formula 1 driver feels when you have two corners to go and you have an engine fail.”

USA goes airborne
Team USA goes airborne after losing rudder control in Taranto, Italy.
© 2021 Bob Martin / SailGP

The UFO hit with enough impact to break the top of the F50’s carbon-fiber wing-tipped rudder. “Some things are just out of your control,” said Spithill “You can’t control having a significant impact under the water. These things will happen.”

Interview with USA’s Jimmy Spithill

Spithill, originally from Australia, now calls Point Loma in San Diego home. Latitude 38 was able to track him down for a quick one-on-one.

L38: Even though the results were disheartening after the ‘incident’ in the finals, you have to feel positive about your team’s performance this weekend. What do you think were the keys to success and what do you bring forward to the next event in Portsmouth?

Jimmy Spithill: “In Italy we showed that we have what it takes to potentially win an event. We’re going to keep working hard and doing the same things we’ve been doing; the results will come.”

L38: How much of a challenge was it to race with just three crew aboard? On the AC 50s as well as the AC45s had you ever practiced or trained with just three? How do you prepare for that type of change?

JS: “Full credit goes to Paul Campbell-James and Rome Kirby. We were able to perform as well as we did because they’re incredible athletes who rose to the occasion.”

L38: There have been some rules changes between Bermuda and Italy, primarily stemming from the collision between you and Nate. What were your thoughts about the penalty assessment? Did the changes solve any concerns the teams may have had about safety? Did you or any of the other teams have any type of input in the changes?

JS: “I’d like to think we helped SailGP make those changes after Bermuda. Though we wish they had been in place at the start of the season, we’re glad to see the league take action.”

L38: It seems as if this weekend would have been a perfect opportunity to get the women sailors onboard. When do you think it will be realistic to have them crew during a race? Would adding a race with mixed-gender crew on all teams be an option?

JS: “Daniela Moroz has been an awesome addition to our team this season. We’ve been rotating her into practice as she begins to learn how to sail the F50. Learning how to sail this boat takes time. We want to do her skills credit by giving her every chance to succeed and asking her to race when she’s ready.”

Crew aboard Team USA F50
Team USA in a meeting, the boys sharing a laugh.
© 2021 Ricardo Pinto / SailGP

L38: What does she need to work on most to rotate on board in a race situation? You have worked with Californians Andrew Campbell and Cooper Dressler in the past on Oracle Team USA. What qualities do they bring to Team USA?

JS: “A lot of our team raced together on Oracle Team USA including Andrew and Cooper. The best quality they’ve brought, regardless of the campaign, is the same one we’ve seen in Daniela: a commitment to work as hard as possible. That’s why they’ve been successful in the sport. It must be something they teach in California.”

Francesco Bruni and Jimmy Spithill
Jimmy Spithill catches up with his co-helmsman from Luna Rossa, Francesco Bruni. Bruni is now the flight controller for Team Japan.
© 2021 Ricardo Pinto / SailGP

L38: It must have seemed like an “Italian” homecoming this weekend. What was it like to sail in front of the passionate Italian fans and against Francesco Bruni? How was it seeing your co-helmsman again?

JS: “It did feel like a homecoming. Italian sports fans are some of the best in the world. Dai cazzo!”

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