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America's Cup- Jimmy Spithill on the 34th Match and more

by Richard Gladwell on 17 Dec 2013
Final Match - Racing Day 9 - Jimmy Spithill, Oracle Team USA ACEA / Photo Abner Kingman © http://photo.americascup.com

In a series of two interviews, Radio New Zealand National spoke with the two opposing skippers in the 2013 America's Cup, Dean Barker and Jimmy Spithill.

Below are some of the key points from Jimmy Spithill, including the link to the full 30minute interview. There is a lot, lot more in the full interview than is reproduced below:



On coming back from 8-1 down

'For us, as a team, we were no strangers to adversity. We had faced some big challenges in the campaign and we knew from early on that it is a three- four period of time, and despite planning, you will get curved balls coming at you. And often what wins the campaign is how you dealt with those curved balls, and dealt with adversity. They key thing was the team banding together, and becoming stronger from those moments.

'When we were on match point, we said to ourselves, We have been through much worse, we don’t have to think about the end result. All we have to do is focus on ticking one off at a time.

'When the start gun goes you have to focus everything on your job and doing it for the team. The biggest fear for the guys on board was letting down our team-mates.'

On changes made to the boat

The biggest change we made was how we were sailing the boat. We were only scratching the surface with these boats. This is going to the Moon stuff, and you are learning along the way. The learning curve for both teams is vertical. And to learn the most you have to be pushed by the best. Two of the best teams in the world going head to head – and there was so much there to learn.

'We did make some changes to the wing, and re-tuned it a bit like you do with a conventional sail. We put a like more shape in the lower part of the wing.

'The biggest difference was the technique and finding out how to keep the boat on the foils upwind. It was nothing short of a lot of physical pain for the guys grinding, and co-ordination technique-wise between the wing trimmer, the guy driving and the guys putting in all the horsepower.


On foiling systems

'Our boat got measured before it went in the water, and when it came straight out of the water. So did the Kiwi boat. Every single day. Both boats have a very similar foiling system. There was a huge hydraulic ram and it adjusted the foil. To move that ram, you need to move the oil. We had rotary pumps that could only use human power. So the guys had to turn the grinding handles and that us what moved the oil.

'The button was on my steering wheel and if I pushed the button, the guys had to turn the handles and that moved the ram. It has been comedic seeing all these conspiracy theories, but it came down to hard work and technique.'

On upwind foiling:

'Both teams had tried foiling upwind before the competition. When you got it right, there were some big gains, but when you got it wrong it was like jumping off a cliff and you lost everything you had gained. The biggest thing was physical and the commitment from the grinders to physically be able to adjust the wing and the amount of movement in the foil was like nothing I have seen before. They were working at 100% heart rate for 30 minutes. It is frightening. If you look at the data from the heart rate monitors and what the guys are going through it looks like they are having heart attacks.'

Design approaches from the two teams:

'It was surprising how close the two boats were. The teams started out on two different sides of the design curve, when they came together I think the foils and rudders were identical. Obviously the hulls and structure of the platform were engineered quite differently. But when the boats were on the foils they were really the same.'

'The boats were very, very close and it came down to learning how to sail them and physically getting them around the track.

'With the AC72’s if you make a mistake, which happens a lot on these boats – then you get punished. In the mono-hulls you could make a lot of mistakes and really you could get away with a lot more. These cats are like racecars – the harder you push them the faster they go. But if you cross that line there is going to be consequences.

On which team for the next America's Cup:

'For me Oracle Team USA has been a way of life. We won the first campaign in Valencia and defended it in San Francisco. Larry Ellison is a team mate, he is more than an owner - he is a friend of mine. Russell Coutts is someone from whom I have just learned so much and I really owe a lot to those guys. I can’t see myself going anywhere but Oracle. '

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