Jimmy Spithill: “It’s what you live for”

Published on March 8th, 2021

Jimmy Spithill made history when, aged 30, he became the youngest skipper to win the 2010 America’s Cup, and then followed that victory by successfully defending three years later with a 9-8 victory over Emirates Team New Zealand.

In 2017, Spithill once again led Oracle team USA to the America’s Cup finals, though this time Emirates Team New Zealand took the spoils. Now the Australian will have the chance to avenge that defeat after leading Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli to victory over INEOS Team UK in the Prada Cup Final and earning a spot at the 36th America’s Cup in Auckland.

Here’s what the 41-year-old had to say about challenging Team New Zealand for the prestigious title:

Do you think it’s going to be a neck-and-neck match series?
That’s what’s intriguing: We don’t know. In the America’s Cup World Series [December 2020], the New Zealanders showed that they have a very strong package. In the months since then, they were able to make a lot of their design, engineering and development decisions later because they don’t race until the America’s Cup match. However, as challengers we went through the Prada Cup round robins, semi-finals and finals. That’s real high-pressure racing where you play sudden death and the losers go home and there’s nothing like battle-hardened racing. So, for us it’s great to be going into the match, but now the work starts. The main event.

Is there any one factor that could make all the difference?
In my experience, it’s a multitude of things. But I believe the boat speed is going to be the biggest factor in this America’s Cup, as it’s always been.

How much does the human element come into play?
The sailors play a huge role. The boats are incredibly physical and you have to be a few steps ahead, trying to get off the start line well, making good decisions and racing well. But again, the boat speed is fundamental. No matter how good the jockeys are, you need a fast horse.

The teams in this America’s Cup seem well matched – there’s a lot of starpower on both boats.
Both teams are pretty experienced. For example, Glenn Ashby and I go way back – he was our coach in 2010 when we won our first America’s Cup with Oracle and ever since he’s been with New Zealand. Both teams are well stacked in terms of personnel, on and off the water.

What about conditions?
Weather will be everything. In New Zealand, sometimes in one single day you can get all the seasons at once! I think the boats will each have their sweet spots and if a boat has an advantage in some conditions, we’ll have to see if the sailors can overcome that or if the boat runs away with it. It’ll be fascinating.

You won two consecutive America’s Cup campaigns before losing to New Zealand in Bermuda four years ago. How much do you want to win this?
Competitively, in anything you enter, you want to win. You want to get out there and have a great fight on the water. But there’s no doubt in my mind that for this America’s Cup match, we are the underdog. Team New Zealand haven’t just done an incredible job in terms of their boat and assembling talent – they are the defender for a reason and they are at home.

So what’s your team’s mindset?
Whether it’s been a tough day or a good day, just be very consistent and composed. Take the lessons and focus 100 percent of the time and energy on the next race. The next race is the only thing that matters.

How big is it personally for you to have made it to this match?
For me, this campaign has been one of the toughest, if not the toughest. It’s been such a big change for me, coming to a completely different group, a totally new concept for the boat, living where it’s non-English speaking – a bunch of reasons made it challenging but also extremely rewarding. While it’s been a relentless campaign for the whole team, the sign of strength is the ability to bounce back and learn.

How are you going to feel in the moments before that first start against the Kiwis?
With every race it’s really exciting. One of the main reasons you do it is that mixture of emotions, adrenaline, anxiety, a bit of nervousness. That minute or two just before you enter that pre-start box and engage with the other team and you’re all on the boat ready to go… It’s an incredible feeling and very, very addictive.

And ultimately…?
Both teams have got a shot. We may be the underdog, but that’s the great thing about sport. The favorite doesn’t always win. Luna Rossa is a culture of people who are never satisfied, who come to work each day wanting to do more. So it’s an exciting time. As you approach the America’s Cup match, it’s an awesome feeling to wake up every day with that motivation of realising how fortunate you are. Especially today, with what the world has experienced, to be in a competitive team, getting a shot against the best in the world – it’s what you live for.

Source: Red Bull Media

More information:
• America’s Cup format, standings, and how to watch online: click here.
• Complete America’s Cup coverage: click here
• Additional America’s Cup information: click here

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