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Jimmy Spithill: Step back to step forward

Published on May 17th, 2022

After taking over the United States SailGP Team for Season 2, CEO and Driver Jimmy Spithill took them from the cellar to within grasp of the grand prize. But Spithill believed for the team to take another step forward, a step back may be necessary as he shares in this report following the Season 3 opening event in Bermuda:

It’s been awesome being back on the island, which is a second home to a lot of us after we raced the America’s Cup here a few years ago. This Bermuda Sail Grand Prix was our first time returning to a venue since we joined SailGP – and it marks a real evolution for the United States SailGP Team.

We’ve added some new faces and have a completely new shore team. Just like a pit crew in F1, those guys keep us ticking, and the importance of having the right set-up can’t be overstated – it’s the foundation to everything we do as a team, they are the first to arrive and the last to leave, and do whatever it takes to give us a shot at winning.

When you’re leading a group in a competition as tough and demanding as SailGP, depth of talent is everything. We’ve got more events this season than ever, and we’ve seen that injuries, drama and mistakes can happen.

Bringing new people into a tight team can be tricky, especially when you’ve been through a lot together – crashed boats, broken bones, highs and lows. When you take those kinds of punches, it builds strength through adversity and a close mentality.

It’s a time investment, and I just thought that now was the right opportunity to add to the roster, given Bermuda is the only event that allows a few extra training days. Luckily, we’ve got really good people on the United States SailGP Team, and a great culture where everyone’s willing to work and understand there’s going to be a learning process.

Of course, any time you bring someone new in, you’ve got to get the reps in. But more important, is getting those reps in during racing. It’s only when you’re in the heat of battle, with eight other boats around you, pushing hard, that you really learn a lot.

We added Hans Henken to our ranks as a flight controller, and I’ve been so impressed with how he has adapted. His background is impressive – he has a degree in Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering – but rather than build rockets, he decided to fly boats in SailGP.

The F50 catamarans are complicated machines and having a real knowledge of what the foil is doing, and understanding the physics and science of it all, can only help.

When you’re racing, it’s instinct – you’re in the moment – but you can absolutely guarantee that every evening, Hans is deep-diving into the numbers to get an edge.

Luke Muller, former Olympian and AC sailor, also joined us, and, like Hans, fit in immediately with the group. This gives us confidence for the future on the roster and we won’t hesitate to bring him in.

We had a new face on the wheel this week too. CJ Perez is one of our female athletes – she is a real talent for the future, with great instincts and really stepped up her role on the boat during racing. It’s incredible to think that she is only 18; I always forget just how young she is… maybe l just forget how old I am!

We’re fortunate to have three great female athletes on our team – CJ, Daniela Moroz, and Anna Weis – and they all have totally different skill sets. SailGP is really leading the way when it comes to giving these awesome female athletes an opportunity, and I think the future of the sport is really exciting.

My old mate Tom Slingsby and his Australia SailGP Team took the win again in Bermuda – and, at times, they look unstoppable out there. A special note to Tash Bryant doing her first event with the Aussies – what a way to start!

I think that they are the perfect example of how important hours in these boats are, and it’s no coincidence that they have more time racing together as a unit than anyone else on the circuit. But more importantly, in the F50.

When the breeze gets up, they’re the benchmark team – so we are looking at them and trying to get to their level. That said, I do see some vulnerabilities that we can take advantage of this season. They are weaker in light conditions, and as we saw in Season 2 and recently in Bermuda: when the wind is light, any of the teams can win.

Next up is a big homecoming for us: the United States Sail Grand Prix Chicago at Navy Pier, on June 18-19. I have raced in Chicago before, and it will be an incredible event – if the breeze gets up, and we get good weather, we’ll see huge crowds cheering us on.

The Chicago population is just sport crazy, and there are some real iconic sports franchises there. It’s up to us to put on a show, fly the flag, and make sure SailGP steals the headlines next month.

Final Standings*
1. Australia, 4-5-3-4-1 (1)
2. Great Britain, 1-8-1-5-4 (2)
3. Canada, 2-1-5-7-5 (3)
4. Denmark, 5-9-4-3-3
5. United States, 3-7-7-6-2
6. New Zealand, 7-3-8-1-7
7. Spain, 6-4-9-2-9
8. France, 9-2-2-9-8
9. Switzerland, 8-6-6-8-6

*The Japan SailGP Team will sit out the first events of the season due to a series of external factors resulting in only nine F50s being available for the start of Season 3.

SailGP informationBermuda detailsSeason 3 scoreboardFacebookHow to watch

2022-23 SailGP Season 3 Schedule*
May 14-15, 2022 – Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess
June 18-19, 2022 – United States Sail Grand Prix | Chicago at Navy Pier
July 30-31, 2022 – Great Britain Sail Grand Prix | Plymouth
August 18-19, 2022 – ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix | Copenhagen
September 9-10, 2022 – France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez
September 23-24, 2022 – Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía – Cádiz
November 11-12, 2022 – Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas
January 14-15, 2023 – Singapore Sail Grand Prix
March 17-18, 2023 – New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch
May 6-7, 2023 – United States Sail Grand Prix | San Francisco (Season 3 Grand Final)
*One further event is expected to be announced to complete SailGP Season 3.

2022-23 Teams, Helm
Australia, Tom Slingsby
Canada, Phil Robertson
Denmark, Nicolai Sehested
France, Quentin Delapierre
Great Britain, Ben Ainslie
Japan, Nathan Outteridge
New Zealand, Peter Burling
Spain, Jordi Xammar
Switzerland, Sébastien Schneiter
United States, Jimmy Spithill

Format for 2022-23 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 and earn the largest share of the $300,000 prize money to be split among the top three teams.
• The season ends with the Grand Final, which includes the Championship Final Race – a winner-takes-all match race for the $1m prize.

For competition documents, click here.

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 for event prize money as the season culminates with a $1 million winner-takes-all match race.

Source: SailGP

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