Jimmy Spithill: The future is really bright
Published on August 24th, 2022
Before the fourth event of the 2022-23 SailGP Season, league CEO Russell Coutts questioned changes to the US Team’s program which had thus far performed far worse than the previous season. Skipper Jimmy Spithill shares an update after finishing fifth among the eight teams competing in Denmark on August 19-20:
The second day of racing at the Rockwool Denmark Sail Grand Prix in Copenhagen was one of my favorite days since joining SailGP.
It was one of those days where it all just comes together – great conditions, a perfect venue, heaps of action and thousands of fans on shore making noise.
From a United States SailGP Team perspective, we started the day with a second place, and although we had a number of opportunities, we weren’t able to capitalize on them and execute top-4 scores. We went into the final race with a shot at the podium, all tied up in third position with the French and Aussies, but couldn’t execute. Full credit to Quentin and the French on their first podium race.
Nevertheless, we’re positive and we leave Denmark having hit some of our goals and objectives coming out of the previous event in Plymouth, but clearly we have many more to work on and achieve. We’ve put a lot of work and focus on the data and our performance, and we’ll be doing this again as we prepare for St Tropez.
Of course, we still have work to do across the board and it’s not in one particular area, it really is the whole team. In every single position, we’re making small mistakes – and they add up.
I’ve written previously that our time in the F50s is so short, that it’s tough to put your learnings into action. In most events, we have just one or two days of practice before we go racing for real and we’re seeing teams trying things in training that they would never do in racing, so it really keeps you on your toes.
One of the craziest parts of SailGP happens before we even cross the line. If you’ve never watched a SailGP race, be sure to check out the start, where we all battle for the best spot.
Whereas in Formula One, the grid positions are pre-set through qualifying, in SailGP it’s a bit more like motocross – it’s a flat-out brawl with nine F50s pushing the limits. There really isn’t much room for error and every start is different – all the teams are constantly trying to find trends in the different conditions, to get to Mark 1 in good shape.
If you get off the line well, you’ll generally have a good race. But when you’re coming into the start line at top speed, there’s so much going on. You’re constantly balancing your speed, with time to line, whilst trying to keep an eye on your rivals and grab pole position.
It’s about getting across fast, but also cleanly and in a strong position for the all-important first reaching mark. We’ve seen this season that many of the teams that hit that mark first go on to control the race, so the value of getting there first can’t be underestimated.
The New Zealand SailGP Team did a nice job of getting off the line cleanly, but also executing clean maneuvers over a pretty dynamic course. After the last two events, winning both, they’ve now replaced the Aussies as the benchmark team.
They have had a few doubters after a ‘slow’ start to life in SailGP last season, but they’ve shown in the last two events that they’re executing cleanly and consistently and I’m sure everyone will be pouring over their data to see what they are doing differently.
Copenhagen was unique, as for the first time, we competed in four races in one day, due to adverse weather on the first day halting the action.
As SailGP is broadcast live around the globe, we have a strict time window to race in, and so adding the extra action meant that we only had six minutes between races, which added more pressure on the athletes and the shore teams.
If you damage the boat, you’re almost certainly out of the next race, and probably the whole day, so there’s an even greater element of risk versus reward.
I think the four-race format was a real success, both for the athletes and the fans. We got to see more bang for our buck, more starts, more roundings and man, it was a hell of a day of racing. It’s given the management of SailGP a real option of potentially adding this to the future format, it’ll be interesting to see if they look to this format in the future.
The level is so high in SailGP, that we are seeing multiple teams finish with 100 percent fly time – that’s when you get around the whole course foiling, without touching down the hulls on the water, even once.
At one point, that was the thing that all teams were striving for in these boats and now it’s fast becoming a minimum requirement if you want to be in the top spots.
It was pretty cool to see Denmark SailGP Team presented by Rockwool welcome F1 driver Kevin Magnussen onboard their boat ahead of the Denmark event.
It’s great visibility for sailing to get the world’s top drivers wanting to test out these boats and to hear ‘K-Mag’ say that it’s easier driving an F1 car than an F50 gives our sport real credibility.
I’m excited to see where our sports overlap in the future. I know I have a few very fast friends who would love to get their hands on the wheel of our boat – and I’d definitely like to take their car for a spin!
There are so many similarities between our sports and in my opinion, SailGP is the closest thing to F1, on water. We’re seeing racing fans, MotoGP fans starting to tune in and watch SailGP and even if you’re not a sailor or traditional sailing fan, the speed, technology and action is hard to ignore.
I think the future is really bright for SailGP and the sport of sailing as a whole. Myself and Paul Campbell-James spent some time wing foiling with the next generation in Denmark as part of SailGP’s Inspire program and they’re way ahead of where we were at their age.
The concept of foiling has changed the game and new styles like wing foiling have made it super-accessible to fly and go fast. These kids are watching all the SailGP races, going through the onboard footage and they have an unbelievable understanding of the physics and learnings.
Overall, I thought Denmark was a huge success. I love Copenhagen, it’s one of my favorite cities – just the way they operate, with bikes everywhere and people spending so much time outside.
Next up, we head to Saint Tropez for France Sail Grand Prix on September 10-11, and we’ll be working hard between now and then to make sure we go there in good shape for the podium.
Denmark SailGP Final Results
1. New Zealand, 1-1-1-(1), 10 points
2. France, 6-4-2-(2), 9 points
3. Denmark, 3-2-3-(3), 8 points
4. Australia, 5-3-4, 7 points
5. United States, 2-6-6, 6 points
6. Canada, 4-5-7, 5 points
7. Switzerland, 7-7-5, 4 points
8. Spain, 8-8-8, 3 points
9. Great Britain, 9-9-9, 2 points
Season Three Standings (after four events)
1. Australia, 36 points
2. New Zealand, 32 points
3. Denmark, 28 points
4. Canada, 27 points
5. Great Britain, 26 points
6. France, 24 points
7. United States, 19 points
8. Switzerland, 11 points
9. Spain, 11 points
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 19-20, 2022 – ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix | Copenhagen
September 10-11, 2022 – France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez
September 24-25, 2022 – Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía – Cádiz
November 12-13, 2022 – Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas
January 13-14, 2023 – Singapore Sail Grand Prix
February 17-18, 2023 – Australia Sail Grand Prix | Sydney
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)
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.