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America's Cup- Jobson goes one on one with Jimmy Spithill (Part 5)

by ISAF Media on 16 Jan 2014
James Spithill (AUS) and Tom Slingsby (AUS) - Oracle Team USA ACEA - Photo Gilles Martin-Raget © http://photo.americascup.com/
Here's the final insight from an America's Cup winning tactician to a winning skipper. ISAF Vice-President Gary Jobson caught up with Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill at the end of 2013. Offering a fascinating look into the 2013 America's Cup, Jobson and Spithill analyse what went down in San Francisco, USA. Part 5.

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Gary Jobson

'If you were doing the football, there's always a sport where you compare the Peyton Manning's of today and who did he equate to in the past. So I would take an America's Cup skipper, who would I equate you to in the past? And I have read quite a bit about the America's Cup. Have you heard of the name Charlie Barr?'

Jimmy Spithill

'Yes.'

Jobson

'So Charlie Barr was fearless and had very radical boats to sail, particularly with Reliance in 1903. And Nathanael Greene Herreshoff made the boat as radical and threw as much sail area and was the longest boat to sail in the Cup because he knew Charlie Barr was the one guy in the world to handle it. I think you are kind of the Charlie Barr of our era after what you did. Are you contemplating any Olympic campaigns? You haven't done an Olympic program I don't think.'

Spithill

'No, didn't really have the opportunity as a kid. It's obviously one thing that is…that our sport is probably one drawback is that it is quite expensive. So it does take some resource to get it out there and that's something I think whether it's yacht clubs or sailing associations, I think that I'm really pushing for hard is to have programs where kids don't have to own a boat. So they can still come in and race. It's cheap. They can get out there even if it's on a weekend or something and learn the sport of sailing and be competitive. And then if they really want it, then they'll get there eventually.

'I've always enjoyed the team dynamic in sailing. I got into match racing really because you didn't have to own a boat. It was a team of you. I'd love to do the Olympics. I've just got so much respect for those guys. Standing behind me I had Tom Slingsby. JK was obviously successful. And Ben Ainslie, man, I used to say to those guys do not wear those medals out here because one, it will be incredibly noisy and there would just be so much weight in the back of the boat. I guess we'd never nose dive. The racing is fantastic.

'Right now, once you sail a boat like we've just sailed and with a team, I guess my life is all about the America's Cup. I love it. I love the team thing. I found that if you try and do everything you kind of do nothing well. So if I'm going to try and have a go of it I'll just go 110% and that's it. Especially, I think, if you're skippering a team. You really need to be 110% fighters with your teammates. Who knows down the track. I'd love to.

'I'd also like to see some high performance boats get involved in the games. I think the foils and stuff like that are the future. It's a lot of fun. But it is tough and it is athletic. So it would be great to see that get out there and I think that would probably get more people watching Olympic Sailing.'

Jobson

So future America's Cup, I notice that the Challenger of Record is from some country called Australia. Would you sail for them?'

Spithill

'It's not a secret to anyone that you always have a big dream to one day skipper your own winning team from the country you are from. For me, what I've learned in this campaigns is that a team is about its people and who you get involved. I've been involved in teams where you've had the majority of the team, let's say, Kiwi or Aussie or whatever it is. I actually found that not to be the most…not always to lead you the right way. In Australia we sort of have a certain way of thinking. Kiwis have a certain way. Americans. Spanish, French, whatever. But when you get the combination of just good guys with great attitudes, egos but they come from different backgrounds and a lot of the times different cultures. You actually get a pretty creative way of making decisions and really solving problems and compromising and how you sort of eventually work your way through this path to hopefully winning the Cup. And that's what I've enjoyed. So, for me, I'm competitive. I want to win. But I want to do it with people that I've just worked with.

'For instance, there's no ego. It's not about them it's about the team and it about getting the result and doing it together. I think there are a lot of great teams out there. I think it is great to see Australia back in the game. Obviously Australia has been successful, most recently at the Olympics. All the guys are involved on different teams but there's also a lot of other great nationalities out there as well who have a high level. For me, since we've won the race I've been on a bit of sort of whirlwind kind of media sponsored tour. Hadn't really had a whole lot of time to reflect on everything. I think it will take some time for it to sink in for everyone on our team of what they really just pulled off. But there are no two ways about it. I love this game.

'I've been very proud and honored to be part of the team representing America. Australians have a real affiliation with America dating back to the World Wars and sort of us looking after each other. But the thing I love about America is I look at Larry Ellison and here's someone who came from nothing as a kid. Self made. Worked his way up and just goes to show that you don't get judged in America if you're someone that wants to work hard. You're a good person, especially in a team sport or in his life the business world, well it's there for the taking. I think it is an amazing place to live.'

Jobson

'So collective wisdom counts. At the press conference I noticed that somebody had pointed out to you that congratulations, you'd won 13 races in the America's Cup. But one of your teammates had to remind you that maybe they had won more?'

Spithill

'Russell Coutts, as soon as I'd come ashore, came up to me and we were celebrating. He goes come over here I want to talk to you. I thought oh what have I done wrong this time? He goes hey listen before you go getting a big head, you've won 13 of these races and I've won 14.'

Jobson

And just to add to the equations I spoke at the Herreshoff Marine Museum on Sunday night and Halsey Herreshoff, now 80 years old, told me about how you'd won 13 and how Russell had kind of chided you with the 14th. But he's won 15 as a bowman, as a jib trimmer and as a navigator which is kind of cool. If you're going to do an Olympic campaign, you'd better hurry if you're going to catch up to Sir Ben Ainslie with his record in the Olympics. Will we see you back at the helm of an America's Cup boat?'

Spithill

'I love the Cup. That's really my dream of what I love about it. Ben Ainslie is the most successful sailor ever in the Olympics. You look at what he's done Games after Games and certainly in that past Games in London. Really, for me, one of the highlights of this past…the answer is yes. I will be. This is what I want to do. I want to be involved in the Cup. Certainly you come away from those campaigns with memories and obviously the capsize was one and a couple others. But another one was the tragedy that happened with Andrew Simpson.

And seeing two of the world's best sailors, how they react. Ian Percy and Ben Ainslie who were both best mates with him. To see them first hand how they dealt with it, how they dealt with their teams, they dealt with Andrew's family. But then the fact that they got back onboard an AC72 in that Bay after what they went through because they knew how much it meant for their teams and their teammates, was one of the most inspirational things I've ever seen. That sort of memory, that's one of the key ones I'll take.

And it really says a lot about those guys like that. And obviously there are a lot of other guys but really those two were the guys that were in those high pressure roles. No one would have blamed them if they thought hey this isn't for me. I'm just going to step out now. But they didn't. It's pretty obvious why they're champions. That was a key memory that I'll certainly take away from this one.'

Jobson

'I think everybody in San Francisco was hoping that Artemis Racing would have won one of those races there against Luna Rossa but it was pretty good seeing them get out on the water and get going again.'

Spithill

'When you look at the team, they were, by far, the fastest learning. They just had days to figure our foils, or foil while jibing. It took us a long time, Team New Zealand, Luna Rossa, those guys, for sure, just accelerated the learning curve. Going forward they are going to be a very strong team. The interest that is out there as well for new teams and different countries getting involved in the game is incredible. It's a very exciting time now to be involved and commercially inside this sport.

'Before this campaign for Russell and the guys, it was hard to even get in and speak to a TV network. Now, after what they've seen and obviously Gary and all the commentators were involved in this and a part of it, they've got something like wow, this works. This is great. So that's a great place to be for sailing because who thought we would ever be up there like that.'

Jobson

'So we have a little Australian in our family. Our twin daughters, Ashleigh and Brooke, were born in Fremantle during the Cup back in 1987. Last night Brooke delivered a son so we will keep that chain going. Very cool.'

Spithill

'Does he have red hair?'

Jobson

'He doesn't have any hair at all.'

Spithill

'You may have dodged a bullet.'

Jobson

'We'll see. I can guarantee he's going to get to do some sailing. Jimmy you are very gracious with your time and I watched very closely everything you did all summer long. I had a unique seat, I was out on the Race Committee boat. And the truth is, I wasn't really sure if that was going to be a good seat. The other commentators got the good mics and my tech things, are they going to work okay? But as it turned out, I was in a pretty darn good seat too. The only journalist to be out on the racecourse seeing you every morning and Dean and the other guys as you came alongside. It was riveting.

'In the world of sports and the reason why NBC and ESPN and others right now, to have the microphone on you guys, and to hear you in battle with the highs and the lows, and you had some real high moments and you had some real low moments out there, was compelling. We could feel your pain as Bill Clinton once said. At one point I felt like John Glenn on the launch pad, are we ever going to finish this America's Cup. And it had never gone 19 races over 19 days and it just got bigger and better and more exciting.

And one of the great moments, I came out after the last race out of the Media Center there and some guy from Wisconsin, says 'hey Gary how are you doing. Hey because of you guys I just bought a boat. I never sailed before.'

And I thought okay we've done our job here. We're getting more people into the sport of sailing. And I wrote some reports every day during the races which I want you to read. You can throw darts at me occasionally and other times oh that was good. But one of the things I wrote based on all this watching all summer long, I was convinced it was going to be a great America's Cup. I said 'hey world, watch what is going to happen here. This is going to be special.'

And that was tough to say because we hadn't seen a lot of great races at that point. And I went through my analysis of what would happen and any way my prediction at the end was, in the end, Oracle Team USA defends…barely. I didn't know how barely but thank you very much.

Let's give Jimmy Spithill a big Website!

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