Spithill takes control of U.S. SailGP Team
Published on December 8th, 2020
The United States SailGP Team has been restructured for the 2021-22 season, bringing on America’s Cup winning skipper Jimmy Spithill (AUS) as CEO and helm. Spithill will lead the U.S. team as it fights to claim the sport’s largest monetary prize of US$1 million when the global league returns for the start of its second season on April 24-25 in Bermuda.
Rome Kirby, who previously led the team from inception as helm, will shift to the flight controller position, with the remainder of the U.S. team roster to be announced in the coming months. Before the second season was postponed in May 2020 due to COVID-19, Kirby’s team included Riley Gibbs, Taylor Canfield, Hans Henken, Peter Kinney, and Ben Bardwell.
SailGP has an 80% nationality requirement on each team that isn’t classified as a ‘developing sailing nation’ by World Sailing, necessitating 4 of the 5 onboard crew to be deemed nationals of the country they are representing.
As Spithill holds a USA Green Card (Permanent Resident Card) for his primary residence in San Diego, CA, and his wife and kids are all U.S. citizens, he successfully declared U.S. citizenship for SailGP which would allow, if desired, the U.S. team to include another non-national crew member.
Spithill is widely regarded as one of the sport’s top athletes in high-performance racing, having spent the last two decades competing in the America’s Cup. He served as skipper of ORACLE TEAM USA for more than 10 years, during which time he delivered two America’s Cup wins, and is now with America’s Cup challenger Luna Rossa.
“We couldn’t be more excited to have not only an amazing sailor, but also one of the greatest competitors, join SailGP,” said SailGP CEO Sir Russell Coutts. “Jimmy brings a massive amount of experience and skill to the U.S. team and even further cements our position as the sport’s pinnacle league.
“Make no mistake – we have the best sailors in the world competing in the most exciting format. We’ll have eight incredibly competitive teams, each racing in identical, high-speed foiling catamarans in nine different countries around the world. Season 1 produced some great racing, and Season 2 will take this to a whole new level. It’s shaping up to be some of the most thrilling racing the sport has ever seen.”
The nationality requirement for developing sailing nation teams was 40% nationals during the first season, which applied to China and Japan, but this shifts to 60% for season two and 80% for the third season and beyond.
Spithill is the latest high-profile signee for SailGP, joining Season 1 frontrunners and Olympic champions Tom Slingsby (AUS) and Nathan Outteridge (JPN), as well as 2020 additions Sir Ben Ainslie (GBR/four-time Olympic champion), and Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL/Olympic and America’s Cup champions).
“It’s obvious that SailGP is one of the pinnacle events in our sport that combines cutting-edge technology with exciting, dynamic racing in iconic venues spread around the world,” said Spithill. “As a competitor, an annual championship that draws in the world’s best professional sailors is where you want to be.”
Spithill and Kirby will be no strangers to appearing in the same starting lineup – both were former teammates on ORACLE TEAM USA for more than seven years.
“Rome and I both have great respect for one another having been teammates for many years, and I’m excited to be building an American team that is able to compete with and win against the best of the best both now and for years to come,” said Spithill.
“Our first step is to create a winning team and we will use that as a catalyst to re-energize sailing in the U.S. Having raced under the American flag for a significant part of my professional career, this opportunity is – for me – all about creating a pathway that allows us to identify, develop and train the best U.S. talent going forward.”
Australia, Tom Slingsby
Denmark, Nicolai Sehested
France, Billy Besson
Great Britain, Ben Ainslie
Japan, Nathan Outteridge
New Zealand, Peter Burling
Spain, Jordi Xammar/ Phil Robertson*
United States, Jimmy Spithill
* Xammar will helm with Season 1 skipper Phil Robertson (NZL) serving in an interim capacity. Details.
Established in 2018, SailGP seeks to be an annual, global sports league featuring fan-centric inshore racing in some of the iconic harbors around the globe. Rival national teams compete in identical F50 catamarans with the season culminating with a $1 million winner-takes-all match race.
Source: SailGP, Scuttlebutt