Australian skipper Jimmy Spithill has many challenges but no excuses
© Samo Vidic/Red Bull Content Pool
The Australian sailor talks us through the biggest moments and major challenges that stand between his Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team and the 2021 America's Cup.
Two-time America’s Cup-winning skipper Jimmy Spithill is sailing for a new team – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli – in the quest to win the America’s Cup for Italy in 2021. We asked him to talk us through the major milestones he and the team will have to overcome in the lead-up to the biggest event in sailing.
1. Boat development, team assembly and training
There are five teams in the 2021 America’s Cup, all sailing their own version of the AC75, a 75ft (23m) monohull with hydraulic foils, capable of around 100 kilometres per hour. Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli have been developing their boat and team since 2018.
The 41-year-old athlete says: “It’s the first time there’s ever been a boat like this and it really is a machine. It’s very powerful, very physical, very fast – and will hopefully produce some incredible racing. For example, if the boat is doing 40 knots [74 kph], in 20 knots of wind [37 kph] on board you feel 60 knots [111 kph], and you’re getting hit with water at that speed, so you’re feeling like you're in a hurricane.
"Aerodynamics are hugely important, as are factors like communication technology, because in a hurricane you can’t talk, or even yell, to someone next to you. In developing this boat, there are so many projects we need to get right.”
Every team has got the talent, the resources, the technology – no one has any excuses
2. The move to Auckland
The America’s Cup is being held in the waters of the defending cupholders, Emirates Team New Zealand, and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli are the last of the challenging teams to relocate operations to Auckland.
Spithill explains: “Moving our team of 100 people and all the assets is hectic. It's always a big logistic operation in the America’s Cup, and given COVID, it’s even bigger. We have to go on a staggered basis and I’ll be heading to Auckland in mid-September. We have a couple of weeks of quarantine when we get there, but our goal is to be operating in New Zealand in mid-October. All the other teams are already in New Zealand. We’ll have the least amount of time on the water there and we’re really going to need to be efficient to capitalise on it.”
3. The preliminary races
The only opportunity for the America’s Cup teams to go head-to-head before proceedings begin in 2021 will be December’s preliminary races, officially known as the America’s Cup World Series Auckland and Christmas Race.
“It’s the first time we can see how we stack up, and it’ll be the first and only time we line up against the Defender before one of us eventually faces them in the America’s Cup Match,” explains Spithill.
To win for Italy for the first time would be a dream, an experience you can’t describe
4. The Prada Cup
In January and February, Luna Rossa and the three other boats will race to earn the right to be named the 36th America’s Cup Challenger and take on Emirates Team New Zealand in the main event.
“It’ll be really, really tough," comments Spithill. "Every team has got the talent, the resources, the technology – no one has any excuses. That includes us.”
5. Getting the Cup back
Taking place in March, the competition for the oldest trophy in international sport will see three-time winners and defending champions Emirates Team New Zealand with the home advantage.
“You’ve just fought through the Selection Series and you’ve got an even bigger undertaking – racing against the guys who just won the last America’s Cup in Bermuda, now in their own waters. That’s going to be quite a challenge. To win for Italy for the first time would be a dream, an experience you can’t describe,” Spithill says. “Italians are passionate about sailing, especially the America’s Cup, and most especially Luna Rossa. It would be incredible, but a lot needs to happen before spending any time thinking about that!”