Jimmy Spithill at the helm of the USA SailGP Team
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Sailing

Jimmy Spithill: "Things are beginning to turn for this team"

The United States SailGP Team helmsman believes the fortunes of his crew are changing after a memorable battle with the Japanese team in Saint-Tropez.
Written by Jimmy Spithill
4 min readPublished on
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As we rounded the top mark in the final race at France Sail Grand Prix this weekend, we knew that this would be the make or break moment of our regatta.
The battle between ourselves and Japan SailGP Team was neck and neck, and the win would come down to whoever chose the fastest side of the course by the time we got back down to the bottom.
In Saint-Tropez, it wasn’t our day. Credit to Japan, they deserved to take home the win. In light conditions, they have an edge on the rest of the SailGP fleet and we’re working hard to close that gap.
The United States SailGP Team in action on the second day of racing at the France Sail Grand Prix on September 12, 2021.
It was a high-speed battle between the USA and Japan in Saint-Tropez
Despite all the adversity we’ve had thrown at us, we’ve never stopped fighting
We’re here to win every single race – and when we don’t, you can see the disappointment in the faces onboard. I like to see that, it shows we’ve got the right mentality.
But when you look at the big picture, this was a great event for us. To finish second – and come through an event clean, with no broken bones or damage, for the first time this season – shows that things are beginning to turn for this team.
Despite all the adversity we’ve had thrown at us this season, we’ve never stopped fighting. We’re now in second place overall, and, man, we’re in with a real shot at the million bucks.
In SailGP, it all comes down to that final race in San Francisco. It’s the only one that matters and it’s the only race people will remember – if we can only win one race this season, that’s The One.
But first we have to get into the final race, at any cost. To do that, in a series as strong and competitive as SailGP, you have to be consistent and learn from your mistakes.
USA SailGP Team helmed by Jimmy Spithill in action at the France SailGP in Saint-Tropez, France on September 10, 2021.
The new 29m wingsail was used for the first time in France
I’m stoked that we’re putting in solid races, and when we don’t get it right, we dig deep and go back over the data and footage to improve and become stronger. It’s about evolving every day and creating a culture that breeds improvement and learning.
The SailGP boats are evolving too. In France, we had new hardware to play with – a much larger, 29m wingsail. The wingsails on the F50 are something else. They’re made from carbon fibre and look more like an upright airplane wing or some kind of NASA breakthrough than a traditional sail.
We never give up, we keep clawing our way back
To throw a bigger sail on the boat is a bit like an F1 car putting on a brand-new tyre compound. It really changes the tyre balance and set-up of the boat, and as it’s so new, we’re figuring how to get the best out of it on the go.
It’s a bit like learning how to fly the plane while it’s already in the air. But the cool thing about SailGP is that it is a collective effort because you’re not hiding secrets, so the entire fleet gets upgraded together and this brings the competition closer..
The bigger wingsail means that we can still hit breakneck speeds in lighter breeze, accurately manipulating the camber (depth) and the twist (angle) of the sail to find the sweet spot and help the boat lift out of the water and remain on the foils lower down the wind range.
The man responsible for that job has an insane amount of power at his fingertips. In Saint-Tropez, we welcomed our wing trimmer, Paul Campbell-James, back onboard just three weeks after he broke his leg at the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix in Aarhus.
CJ is one of the toughest blokes I’ve ever met… but this one even surprised me. When you look at the X-Ray, you wonder how someone could be ready to walk after three weeks, never mind run across a trampoline on a foiling F50.
USA SailGP Team helmed by Jimmy Spithill in action on race day one of the France SailGP event in Saint-Tropez, France on September 11, 2021.
The race in France saw wing trimmer Paul Campbell-James return to action
It says everything about the strength and attitude in this team. We never give up, we keep clawing our way back, and we carry the burden of not wanting to let our team-mates down. CJ is proof of that.
He pushed through the pain barrier to give himself every chance of making the racing in France, and trust me, the rest of the team see that.
Although he got through a few packets of painkillers and ice packs, CJ was key for us this weekend and showed his and the team's mindset of doing whatever it takes and that we are not going away.
Next up, we’re heading to Cadíz for the Spain Sail Grand Prix on October 9-10. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this one – we’re reaching the business end of the season, and everyone knows it…
Part of this story

James Spithill

The youngest skipper to ever win the America’s …

AustraliaAustralia
View Profile