x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Title defence stiff ask for Jimmy Spithill

Like most sailors at this month's LVT meeting, the Australian regrets the coming to an end of monohull racing among the cream of sailing.

Jimmy Spithill has achieved success at a young age.
Jimmy Spithill has achieved success at a young age.

DUBAI // It is going to be difficult for Jimmy Spithill to surpass his achievement in becoming the youngest skipper to lead a successful America's Cup campaign last February.

The Sydney-born yachtsman, 30 then, maintains that a successful defence of his sport's most-coveted trophy will eclipse that feat as the event enters an exciting new multihull era.

"We could be up against eight challengers next time round," said Spithill, who has resumed where he left off with his triumphant BMW Oracle crew who are setting the early pace in the Louis Vuitton Trophy (LVT) regatta in Dubai with a faultless record of six wins out of six during the first three days of match racing.

"And all of those challengers will be on fantastic new catamarans," continued Spithill.

"The America's Cup is the pinnacle of yachting so it really should take place with the best technology and the fastest, most extreme boats. We are all looking forward to it enormously."

Like most sailors at this month's LVT meeting, Spithill regrets the coming to an end of monohull racing among the cream of sailing.

"These monohulls started out as the best boats in the business in the early 1990s. But now there are a lot of monohulls that are better than what we currently are sailing here," said Spithill.

"So in order to keep the America's Cup at the pinnacle of the sport, we had to change."

That means all the crews have to adapt to the rudiments of sailing a multihull and then readjusting quickly when they compete at meetings such as the current one in Dubai.

Spithill compared the situation to the structure of motorsport. "The average sailor won't be able to sail these new boats but the average driver would not be able to drive a Formula One car," he said.

"So we can now say that this event really is now the F1 of sailing. You couldn't say that before because there were faster boats around than the America's Cup monohulls."

Spithill is convinced that the 2013 America's Cup will be more pleasing on the eye than previous contests, but perhaps not as pleasing on the ear.

"The new boats are so beautiful in their appearance that we thought it was time to make the event more attractive on television, not just to sailors but to the public.

"We experienced that last time with our trimaran. People still come to see our winning boat tied up to the dock, but if we had a monohull moored there that just wouldn't happen."

"There will now be full audio on the boats as well as video," said Spithill. "The public will be able to see and hear all the emotions.

"Even if we swear that's fine. That's what I think makes compelling viewing. In other sports you get that. You hear the competitors blowing up under pressure when mistakes are being made.

"I would probably be embarrassed hearing myself use certain language - but that's the game. That's where the good guys prosper with the watching public where others fail to impress."

It is the pressure moments that separate the men from the boys in the sailing world according to Spithill.

He said: "The people we have in our team are a very good working unit. When times are tough they get tighter together.

"When you are winning it's all easy but it's when you are going through hard times cracks tend to form. We don't have those cracks in our set-up. We've been fortunate to have been through that where we see how people operate and I'm delighted with the way our guys operate."

wjohnson@thenational.ae