Positive progress for US SailGP Team
Published on September 21st, 2021
After five events, the United States SailGP Team helmsman Jimmy Spithill believes the fortunes of his crew are on the rise after the latest event in France. With the circuit moving to Spain in less than three weeks, Spithill offers his assessment in this report:
As we rounded the top mark in the final race at France Sail Grand Prix, we knew that this would be the make or break moment of our regatta.
The battle between ourselves and Japan SailGP Team was neck and neck, and the win would come down to whoever chose the fastest side of the course by the time we got back down to the bottom.
When you’re in those high-pressure situations, with the adrenaline pumping, it’s a big call to split from your rivals – but it’s about risk versus reward. You have to be decisive and trust your gut.
In Saint-Tropez, it wasn’t our day. Credit to Japan, they deserved to take home the win. In light conditions, they have an edge on the rest of the SailGP fleet and we’re working hard to close that gap.
We’re here to win every single race – and when we don’t, you can see the disappointment in the faces onboard. I like to see that, it shows we’ve got the right mentality.
But when you look at the big picture, this was a great event for us. To finish second – and come through an event clean, with no broken bones or damage, for the first time this season – shows that things are beginning to turn for this team.
Despite all the adversity we’ve had thrown at us this season, we’ve never stopped fighting. We’re now in second place overall, and, man, we’re in with a real shot at the million bucks.
In SailGP, it all comes down to that final race in San Francisco. It’s the only one that matters and we need to push ourselves constantly in preparation for that moment.
We have to get into the final race, at any cost. To do that, in a series as strong and competitive as SailGP, you have to be consistent and create winning habits.
I’m stoked that we’re putting in solid races, and when we don’t get it right, we dig deep and go back over the data and footage to improve and become stronger. It’s about evolving every day.
The SailGP boats are evolving too. In France, we had new hardware to play with – a much larger, 29m wingsail. The wingsails on the F50 are something else. They’re made from carbon fibre and look more like an upright airplane wing or some kind of NASA breakthrough than a traditional sail.
To throw a bigger sail on the boat is a bit like an F1 car putting on a brand new tire compound. It really changes the tire balance and set up of the boat, and as it’s so new, we’re figuring how to get the best out of it on the go.
It’s a bit like learning how to fly the plane while it’s already in the air. But the cool thing about SailGP is that it is a collective effort because you’re not hiding secrets, so the entire fleet gets upgraded together.
The bigger wingsail means that we can still hit breakneck speeds in lighter breeze, accurately manipulating the camber (depth) and the twist (angle) of the sail to find the sweet spot and help the boat lift out of the water.
The man responsible for that job has an insane amount of power at his fingertips. In Saint-Tropez, we welcomed our wing trimmer, Paul Campbell-James, back onboard just three weeks after he broke his leg at the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix in Aarhus.
CJ is one of the toughest blokes I’ve ever met… but this one even surprised me. When you look at the X-Ray, you wonder how someone could be ready to walk after three weeks, never mind run across a trampoline on a foiling F50.
It says everything about the strength and attitude in this team. We never give up, we keep clawing our way back and that’s what CJ has done.
He pushed through the pain barrier to give himself every chance of making the racing in France, and trust me, the rest of the team sees that.
Although he got through a few packets of painkillers, CJ was key for us this weekend and gave us the motivation to get out there and perform on the water.
Next up, we’re heading to Cadíz for the Spain Sail Grand Prix on October 9-10. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this one – we’re reaching the business end of the season, and we’re locked in and ready to give everything to stay in the top spots.
SailGP Season Championship (after 5 events)
1. Japan, 37 pts
2. United States, 35 pts
3. Australia, 35 pts
4. Great Britain, 34 pts
5. Spain, 31 pts
6. New Zealand, 30 pts
7. Denmark, 28 pts
8. France, 27 pts
Format for SailGP events:
• Teams compete in identical F50 catamarans.
• Each event runs across two days.
• There are three races on each day, totaling six races at each event.
• The opening five fleet races involve every team.
• The final match race pits the three highest ranking teams against each other to be crowned event champion.
• The season ends with the Grand Final, which includes the Championship Final Race – a winner-takes-all match race for the $1m prize.
SailGP Season 2 Schedule*
April 24-25, 2021 – Bermuda Grand Prix
June 5-6, 2021 – Italy Grand Prix – Taranto
July 17-18, 2021 – Great Britain Grand Prix – Plymouth
August 20-21, 2021 – ROCKWOOL Denmark Grand Prix – Aarhus
September 11-12, 2021 – France Grand Prix – Saint-Tropez
October 9-10, 2021 – Spain Grand Prix – Andalusia
December 17-18, 2021 – Australia Grand Prix – Sydney
January 29-30, 2022 – New Zealand Grand Prix – Christchurch (CANCELLED)
March 26-27, 2022 – United States Grand Prix – San Francisco (Season 2 Grand Final)
*Subject to change
2021-22 Teams, Helm
Australia, Tom Slingsby
Denmark, Nicolai Sehested
France, Billy Besson
Great Britain, Ben Ainslie (alternate – Paul Goodison)
Japan, Nathan Outteridge
New Zealand, Peter Burling (alternate – Arnaud Psarofaghis)
Spain, Jordi Xammar (alternate – Phil Robertson)
United States, Jimmy Spithill
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.