Aussie Spithill to make SailGP debut

·3-min read

Three weeks after his Italian-based team lost the America's Cup match on New Zealand's Hauraki Gulf, Australian-born Jimmy Spithill has arrived on Bermuda's Great Sound to lead the reconfigured American team in the SailGP global league.

Spithill will make his SailGP debut when the pandemic-delayed second season begins on April 24-25.

He was hired late last year as CEO and helmsman, and has remade the crew of the team that finished last in the inaugural season in 2019.

Spithill doesn't mind he's barely had time to catch his breath from co-helming Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team in a 7-3 loss to Emirates Team New Zealand in the America's Cup last month.

"It doesn't take long for you to sort of get hungry again from a competitive point of view," said Spithill, who has sailed in the last four America's Cup matches, winning two and losing two.

"Especially when you're operating day in, day out on the edge, that sort of America's Cup level, after a couple of days in some ways you're not really sure what to do with yourself. So it's great to have a project to get accustomed to."

SailGP was founded by five-time America's Cup champion Russell Coutts and tech titan Larry Ellison after their Oracle Team USA was defeated by Emirates Team New Zealand in the 2017 America's Cup in Bermuda.

Spithill was the losing skipper in that regatta after leading Oracle to victories in 2010 and 2013. SailGP is contested in an upgraded version of the foiling, wing-sailed 50-foot catamarans that were used in the 2017 America's Cup.

"It's really cool coming back to these boats," said Spithill, who makes his permanent home in San Diego with his American wife, Jennifer, and their two sons.

"They're a lot of fun and they've taken a significant step forward in terms of the upgrades in the foils and the wings. It's pretty cool but it's really, to be honest, almost starting from scratch. I've really got to relearn everything, and we've got a new squad together."

The United States finished sixth in 2019, well off the pace of champion Team Australia, which won the $1 million, winner-take-all prize.

There are now eight teams that will compete in eight regattas stretching into early 2022, finishing in San Francisco next March 26-27.

Spithill has also hired head coach Philippe Presti, who helped Australia win the inaugural title.

Two-time America's Cup champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke will head a new SailGP team from New Zealand. Sir Ben Ainslie, who sailed with Spithill in the 2013 America's Cup and was eliminated by him in the 2021 challenger series, heads the British SailGP Team.

Another of Spithill's 2013 America's Cup crewmates, Tom Slingsby, is skipper of defending SailGP champion Australia.