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.
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'The first couple campaigns you were in, in the America's Cup didn't go as well as you would have liked. So you must have learned some lessons along the way that helped you out a little bit later, particularly a couple weeks ago.'
'Most definitely. These campaigns are incredible. It's a big people game too. You've got over 100 people working together. It's not a day job. It's an obsession. You're there six days a week usually. For a lot of guys it's almost seven days. Long hours. But it's a passion. You love it and you just can't wait to get up every day. You learn a lot. For me, the best opportunity for learning is usually in a defeat or usually when you go through a hard time. As Gary said, you know, it took me quite a few campaigns before we were able to finally pull off a couple wins. But even the successful campaigns, this past one is a great example, we capsized. We were the first ones to capsize in an AC72. We had a situation right before the competition where we had a couple team members involved in a Jury decision. So quite a lot of distractions. But it is during those hard times, that's usually the ultimate test for a team.
'And now, at the end of it, for instance I look back on the capsize as a real highlight or key moment because of the learning. Not because I've destroyed a $10 million boat but because I got to see how our team reacted in a tough situation. It wouldn't have been such a …I don't think people would have judged us too much if we said oh, if we split up or if it was just too hard or said hey guys this isn't for us. But this team doesn't do that. It's hey, no problem. There's no finger pointing. Let's get together. Let's work hard. Let's solve this. For me personally after the capsize I kept waiting for someone to come up and say something or at least point their finger at me and blame me for something. Someone must be a bit wound up about this? But they didn't. All they kept saying was don't worry, we're going to get you guys out on the water soon. We've got your back. This is fine. I think that's…when you face that as a team, that adversity, you almost get that sort of immortal feeling that hey, bring on the competition because if we can get through those sort of situations, we can take anything else on. It gives you confidence.'
'You mentioned Dean Barker, family man. Dean and his wife, Mandy, I sat with them at the Louis Vuitton Cup Dinner. They have four kids. I think they're 8, 6, 4 and 2. That's quite a busy family they have. Tell us a little bit about your family.'
'I'm really fortunate. I've got two young boys, 5 and 3. Got me a couple of red heads.'
'Are they going to take boxing lessons?'
'They're both naturally gifted already. You can hardly split them up. No. My wife, Jan, she's originally from San Diego. Loves the water, boating and fortunate those two were actually born in America too. You sort of live this kind of, I joke about it, it's like a bit of a traveling circus. You follow the event around and your families all go. But one thing you need in this game is a fantastic partner with you. We've got our own little team because you're just not there a lot. For six days of the week, you go in the morning and they're asleep and you come home and they're asleep. It's a challenge and its tough but at the end the day I think that's what drives a lot of the guys in the game because they have families. Their families are the motivation. That's why they get up day after day to do it. That's a lot of the drive for them. You really have to have an amazing partner. I'm pretty fortunate. For them, they're young, only 5 and 3, so they would come down to our own dock out show and stuff like that. I'd sort of see them down there. We had a big jumping castle. Sometimes I'd see them in the mornings and say are you going to come down and see Dad? 'Yes, I'm coming down for the jumping castle.' They really had no interest in the sailing at all. It was just sort of get to that jumping castle as quick as they could.'
'John Kostecki said at one point in practice, both you and he, maybe different times, fell in one time?'
'Yes, John somehow escaped the camera. Mine did not as I never seem to. I was surprised that we didn't have more guys fall off the board. I know the Kiwis lost a couple in their nose dive in the Challenger Series. Yes, myself, John, Joey Newton actually fell off just before the entry on one of the starts. But the G Force on those boats, it's hard to explain, but it would be sort of like standing on the roof of a car and then someone just turning quite violently. It's so hard to stop yourself going. And guys, when we're foil jibing, guys would be running down in the midst of this doing 40 knots and then you start turning and they're not there yet. And it's very difficult for them to slip themselves down. When I did it, it wasn't anything that spectacular. It was really light air. I just sort of lost my footing. The G Force onboard those boats is frightening. That's why a lot of time guys, everyone wore a harness just like a rock climber. In the high risk manoeuvres, bear aways and a lot of wind, guys would clip on because of that. It was almost like a seat belt in a car.'
'I was just so glad I didn't fall over. It could have been close.'
'We had the camera on just in case.'
'Thank you. I'm sure you did. That would have been good. The America's Cup, as I'm sure you appreciate, has a long history. And our event, by the way, is sponsored by Sailing World Cruising World, and the National Sailing Hall of Fame, who celebrate some of the people in the past. Have you done some study of people in the America's Cup of the past?
'For me, why I got into the game was because of Australia II and that team. Growing up in Australia, Colin Beashel was my hero and lived just across from this bay, a little island where we lived. But it is just a fascinating sport. There's the team dynamic which is great but then the team outside of the team that supports this group. The sailors, well at least we get to get on the boat, go out there and have fun. These guys they just put in more hours than us, blood, sweat and tears every single day. And they don't even get to go on the boat. That in itself is so motivating. And if you look back at a lot of the successful teams they all seem to have this in common. They have these individuals and these team members that you don't see, they're not in the limelight but man are they committed. And they usually are real back bone of any team And certainly looking through the history, through a lot of the great championship winning teams, they all seem to have this common bond together. Something I learned early on is always surround yourself with great people. Especially people that are better than you because it forces you to work harder to try and get up where they are.'
by ISAF Media
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12:58 AM Wed 15 Jan 2014GMT
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