Jimmy Spithill’s version of getting up and heading to the office is just a little different to most. He starts in the gym about 7.00am, heads home for a shower and breakfast, then hits the ORACLE Racing HQ at San Francisco’s Pier 80 for an operations meeting which sets the team’s agenda for the day.
This week the focus has been on trialing equipment with Race Committee and umpires. A sailing team debrief follows where the team discusses what happened the previous day on the water, analyzing video footage and working with coaches Philippe Presti and Darren Bundock (aka Bundy). Meetings over, it’s time to crank up the pace and get out on the water. 'It's a full day,' says Jimmy. SailBlast editor Michelle Slade chatted to the skipper of America's Cup defender, ORACLE Racing about his first week sailing the AC45 in San Francisco.
SailBlast: What have you learned this past week in San Francisco?
Spithill: The way the weather works here on the Bay is perfect - from midday on you can be sailing. On these boats you don’t need more than a few hours because it’s so physical for the crew. You get to the point where you start to get diminishing returns because everyone’s starting to get tired. These boats are just physically draining and it takes its toll - you never get a break really. By the time the end of the week comes around you can definitely see everyone needs a couple of days off to recharge.
Another thing we’ve learned here is to split the week up, like we’ll do a Mon/Tues sail, take Wed as a maintenance catch up day, then sail Thurs/Fri. You could sail six days a week but you wouldn’t be any better for it. On the old boats, 2-boat testing was draining but more mentally concentration-wise for the drivers and the trimmers.
SailBlast: There’s a lot of talk about the athleticism required on the 45?
Spithill: It’s definitely a different game - the huge emphasis now is on the athletic side, which I think is good. I have friends who are professional rugby players and they don’t see the athletic side of sailing - they instantly think of guys in a blazer sitting on the side, swanning around the bay. Once people see the 45s, with the cameras and mikes onboard, they see the amount of effort going into it.
SailBlast: Has this had a big part in determining who is on the sailing team?
Spithill: Definitely. You can’t carry anyone. If you’re on these boats or the 72, you’ve got to be fit and you have to be able to perform, and that can only be a good thing. When you look at it, on the 45, there’s only 4 guys doing all the work as the helmsman can’t do a lot - he can help out with the wing trim here and there. On the 72 it’s the same thing - take the helmsman out and you have 10 guys - you have a wing trimmer, and a front sail trimmer, so you have 8 guys to physically do all the work. They have to be all-around sailors. If you make a mistake or if you’re pushing the edge, everyone’s got to be thinking, 'Will I need to ease that sheet if we do a big nose dive , or vice versa.' You never had that on the old boats - you’d be thinking ahead for the maneuver but the consequence of getting it wrong was never a capsize, the consequence, was that we mess a maneuver up or break a pole, tear a spinnaker - now the consequences are serious.
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