Jimmy Spithill: Start of something good
Published on September 14th, 2022
Taking our first SailGP win at the France Sail Grand Prix this weekend was a pivotal moment for our team – and it also proved a few people wrong. It’s a feeling that has eluded us for a long time, after coming up short in a few podium races last season – including the Final in San Francisco.
I’m so proud that this team finally has a victory to celebrate, and to get that monkey off our back is a huge psychological boost going into the second half of Season 3. We now join the Aussies and Kiwis as the only teams to win an event in Season 3.
Let’s be real though: it hasn’t been easy for us recently and we have a long way to go to reach our potential and the standards we hold ourselves to. The team was under big pressure coming into this event. We hadn’t been able to achieve the consistency and put it all together, and there was a lot of talk before the racing about what we should or shouldn’t be doing, and about different people on the team and what we should be changing.
However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career, it’s that the absolute last people to listen to or take notice of are the media and armchair critics who have never stepped foot onto the battle field at this level.
Although not enjoyable at the time, there is benefit in this – you see what your teammates are made of, see them under pressure, see how they will respond and more importantly treat one another.
The racing in Saint-Tropez had the two ends of the spectrum. Race Day 1 was like nothing we’ve ever experienced in SailGP before, maintaining speeds close to 100kph on a very tight track, on the edge of control. The foils and rudders pushed to the absolute limit – I believe we found the upper limit with the current boats and hardware on Saturday.
Sunday was the other end of the spectrum – with light and patchy breeze, multiple modes of sailing and a lot of risk versus reward in the many transitions; it was a real minefield out there, so that strong start and points in the bag from Day 1 became even more important.
To be able to perform in both sets of conditions is a good confidence boost for us, and as an event, I think this one has provided the most challenging conditions so far this season.
Arguably the key moment of the weekend for us was in the Final, when we were able to foil gybe after the start near Mark 1 in very tricky conditions, and the other two teams – New Zealand and Great Britain – weren’t. This was the only foiling maneuver performed during the Final – what a credit to the crew.
I believe that any world-class sports team needs strength in depth on their roster, as you never know what can happen in a competition like SailGP. And we saw that in Saint-Tropez as we brought in Steph Roble straight from the 49er World Championships… and she rolled her ankle on day one.
It’s such a shame for Steph, who fitted in straight away. You can see why she is such a talented sailor, but her chance will come, and we wish her a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing her in our squad in the future. We welcomed Amelie Riou from the France SailGP Team onboard as emergency cover, and I have to say, she was great.
To jump into a brand-new team, in your second language, on race weekend, in the gnarliest conditions to date is very impressive, and says a lot about the talent across the board in SailGP and the level we’re seeing in the championship. Thanks to Amelie and to France SailGP Team for helping us out.
We also had a couple of other new faces onboard the Eagle earlier in the week, as we took Oracle Red Bull Racing Formula One drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez for a ride on the F50.
It’s a dream to have two of the world’s biggest sports stars so engaged and interested in everything we’re doing, and gives our sport real credibility. They were both really fascinated by the team work onboard, especially the communication, the G-Forces, how we’re all in sync, and how data-driven we are.
It’s no shock to me that racing fans are coming over to this new type of sailing. Let’s face it, this is Formula One on water… and if you love racing, speed, tech, innovation, we have it all – except engines, as we’re powered by nature.
We’re seeing a huge boost and growth in the popularity and interest in SailGP, and that can only be good for the whole of sailing and other water sports.
Max and Checo, if you’re reading this, I think it’s only fair you give me the wheel of the F1 car. I just want one lap…
Next up, we head to the Spain Sail Grand Prix in Cádiz. It’s a short event, with only one training day, so we need to carry this momentum and confidence.
Hopefully this is the start of our comeback for the season. There are heaps of points left to play for, thanks to all the fans that have had our back since Day 1.
Final Results – France
1. United States (Jimmy Spithill), 3-2-3-1 (1)
2. New Zealand (Peter Burling), 1-4-1-2 (2)
3. Great Britain (Ben Ainslie), 2-9-4-3 (3)
4. France (Quintin Delapierre), 6-6-2-5
5. Australia (Tom Slingsby), 5-1-7-7
6. Denmark (Nicolai Sehested), 9-3-8-6
7. Spain (Jordi Xammar), 4-5-9-8
8. Switzerland (Sebastien Schneiter/Nathan Outteridge), 7-8-5-4
9. Canada (Phil Robertson), 8-7-6-9
Season Three Standings (after five of 11 events)
1. Australia (Tom Slingsby), 42 points
2. New Zealand (Peter Burling), 41 points
3. Great Britain (Ben Ainslie), 34 points
4. Denmark (Nicolai Sehested), 33 points
5. France (Quintin Delapierre), 31 points
6. Canada (Phil Robertson), 29 points
7. United States (Jimmy Spithill), 25 points
8. Spain (Jordi Xammar), 15 points
9. Switzerland (Sebastien Schneiter), 12 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 qualifying races each day for all nine teams.*
• The top three teams from qualifying advance to a final race 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.
* Qualifying schedule increased from five to six races at France SailGP.
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.