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Jimmy Spithill: Achieving the objective

Published on December 22nd, 2021

The second season of SailGP has eight events to decide which of the eight teams will claim the top three spots that advance to the final $1 million winner-takes-all race.

But before the eighth event in San Francisco on March 26-27, the consistency of Australia and United States have guaranteed their entry into the finale. The USA event will now decide who joins them for the money race on that last day.

USA skipper Jimmy Spithill reflects on the journey in this report for sponsor Red Bull:

We hit a top speed of 53.1 knots (0.1 knots short of the speed record!) in big breeze on Sydney Harbor, but that wasn’t even the highlight of the Australia Sail Grand Prix for us.

Since the first day I arrived at the helm of the United States SailGP Team, we’ve had one objective. On December 17-18, at the Australia Sail Grand Prix, we achieved it.

We’ve secured our place in the final winner-take-all race at our home Sail Grand Prix in San Francisco – and we’re in with a shot at the million bucks. We haven’t won anything yet, but we’re in the mix and now we’ll give it everything we’ve got.

To book our spot with an event to spare is impressive and a testament to this team. This season couldn’t have started any worse for us – taken out by the Japanese team and finishing last in Bermuda in our first event. Since then, we’ve had broken bones, damage to our boat and collisions with underwater objects. It’s just been one thing after another.

But the key thing is that we got to see this team in some critical moments, under pressure and facing huge challenges, and they’ve never stopped fighting.

It can’t be overstated just how high the level is in SailGP. Things can go wrong real quick and you really see the pressure taking its toll, even on the best sailors on the planet. If you haven’t seen the crash between the Brits and the Japan SailGP Team in Sydney, check it out.

Luckily everyone came out safely, but it’s pretty gnarly and shows just how hectic things can be on the start line when every boat is pushing for an advantage. However, push too far and it can ruin your season, ultimately becoming a million-dollar mistake.

We’re at the business end of the season now and every point counts. That’s why I’m so stoked that we achieved our objective, while a lot of other teams didn’t.

And to do it in front of friends and family was a proud moment too. Sydney is a unique venue because it has an island in the middle of the racecourse, so it’s great for fans and creates a lot of passing opportunities. Forget about courtside seats – in Sydney Harbor, you’re sitting on court in the center circle!

Now, we prepare for the United States Sail Grand Prix in San Francisco. The pressure is on the Aussies, who have dominated this season, winning four out of the last five regattas, and at this point, it’s their championship to lose.

We’re in a great position and we have everything to gain – imagine winning all those events and then dropping the ball on the big one, when it matters. What an awesome opportunity we have at home.

They’re a very polished team, they’re the reigning champions and they dominate in big breeze, but the great thing about sport is that the favorites don’t always win. We are the underdogs, we have momentum and we are getting closer.

We are already digging into the data to analyze and learn where we can improve and get closer to them – and I know San Francisco pretty well. Yes, it can be windy, which plays to the Aussie’s strengths, but you also get many lighter days. To win there, you really need to have the full package. There’s no hiding.

The cool thing about SailGP is, it’s not just a two-boat race. That’s pretty unique in sport and it’s exciting to watch.

At the United States Sail Grand Prix, we will have three boats racing for the money – and any one of them can win. It’s going to be fascinating to see who takes the third spot. Will it be Japan, Spain, or a real twist and someone else?

SailGP is a bit like F1, in that you really don’t know what’s going to happen until you get right to the line. I watched Max Verstappen take the win on December 12 and man, what an insane race. Big congrats to him and the whole team at Red Bull Racing – it was a well-deserved victory, but not over until the final lap and I expect the same in San Francisco.

If you enjoyed that 2021 F1 finale, you will love SailGP – super-fast boats, the best sailors on the planet, plenty of drama – and it’s all decided in that one, winner-takes-all race.

Final Results – Australia Sail Grand Prix
1. Australia, 3-7-1-4-2-(1); 28
2. USA, 6-3-2-3-4-(2); 27
3. Spain, 1-2-3-6-6-(3); 27
4. Japan, 7-1-7-1-1; 26
5. New Zealand, 5-8-5-2-3; 22
6. Denmark, 4-5-4-7-5; 20
7. France,8-6-6-5-7; 11
8. Great Britain, 2-4-7-8-8; 6
Great Britain SailGP Team penalized six points
France SailGP Team penalized two points

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SailGP Season Championship (after 7 events)
1. Australia, 55 pts
2. United States, 53 pts
3. Japan, 51 pts
4. Spain, 43 pts
5. New Zealand, 42 pts
6. Great Britain, 41 pts
7. Denmark, 38 pts
8. France, 35 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.
• Race scoring provides 8 points for first, 7 points for second, etc.
• The final race in each event 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 for the top three teams from the season ranking for 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, Quentin Delapierre
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 race.

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