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.
Miss Part 1? Click here to check it out. The five part series will be published on the ISAF website, www.sailing.org during January 2014.
'There were a few theories in the New Zealand press going on. We'll cast that aside for the moment. One of the other changes you made was to bring Ben Ainslie on the boat. In the long history of the America's Cup it is very rare in the actual Cup to change one of the crew, whether you're winning or losing. So what was behind bringing Ben Ainslie in and what difference did that make?'
'We had amazing depth in our sailing team. We actually had it set up this way on purpose because our campaign was based around trying to sail two AC72s. We don't get to race in the challenger series. Big advantage to the challenger. Always has been. To take on two 72s, we honestly didn't know how often we'd be able to sail one let alone two which is a big undertaking. So we hired the best guys we could.
'Obviously Ben, no question, one of the best sailors if not the best sailor in the world. John and I had just won the previous America's Cup. We'd just had a very successful series in the 45s where we dominated there. It was a time when things weren't going well. We were in a slower boat for one. Of course, you always make mistakes out on the water and there were some mistakes.
'But we needed a change. Gary is right. I don't think it ever really usually works like that. But it said a lot, I think, about John and the team and the people we had about how he approached it. We sat down after the race, we spoke about it. We said look we're thinking about making a change. And he said well go, great. I think you should make a change. I think this is the time to do it. I think we just need a change now. Effectively put his hand up.
'Straight out of the meeting what does he do? He goes straight over to Ben and starts getting Ben ready for the next day. Talking about the navigation software, certain plays on the boat, the pedestal, stuff like that. Everyone saw that on the team. And that really says a lot about the people on our team. When they put the team number one, always themselves number two.
'If there's ever a guy on the team who had a lot riding on it or you could say could get worried about how he comes off, would be John. He's from San Francisco. High profile guy. But here he was putting himself second and the team first. And that's, in essence, I think what made the team so good in a high pressure situation. They never thought about themselves. It was always the team. There are so many examples like the example I gave with JK, and ultimately it sounds so simple but it is all about the team and doing what we think is right at the time.'
'Well said. Race 8, leg 3, we're going upwind, New Zealand's got maybe a three or four length lead on you. They're going to tack to leeward ahead and the tack turned into a near capsize. You're coming on at 22 knots or so and you made the decision to go above them, not below them, at that moment. What was in your head when you saw New Zealand almost capsize in Race 8?'
'Initially we were going to try and go below them, or duck them or what we call hook, try and get a hook to leeward and then that didn't look too good right at the end. So luckily we bailed out of that. I thought they were going over with the last look I got at them was they were…I could see Glen Ashby a long way up. It's a funny thing. It's one of those things where you don't enjoy seeing it.
'We'd been involved in a capsize obviously. We were training with Artemis the day they capsized and unfortunately Andrew Simpson passed away. So it's not something you enjoy seeing. The only thing I'd liken it to is maybe a race car driver going past or seeing a crash.
'Even if they're your competitor you don't like it. You don't like seeing it. At the end of the day, of course, your fears are always on the water and you really do want to almost kill each but when you come ashore there's nothing but respect. You've just been through a battle and you've shared something, two teams, and taken it on and that's something pretty special that you remember. So you want to win on the water. To be honest I think everyone was relieved that they didn't go over and came out and fought another day and finished the race.'
'So the score is 8-8 and we're on Race 19. You're to windward at the start. New Zealand is still overlapped at the first turning mark and then you nose dive there. I asked you that on air after the race about it but tell us a little bit about why that happened and how did you recover from it in the final race there?'
'The reach is so critical on these boats. You get to this angle that multihull sailors call the death angle. It's at the angle where it's the fastest point of sail for the boat. When you do get overpowered or get in a tough situation, it's not obvious which way to go to unload the boat or depower. You don't know whether coming up to unload will leave a load or power the boat up or if you go down whether it will power it up again. And that reach mark is usually set right around there. Because it is so fast there's a lot of action. But when you add foiling it really is another dimension. And to get the foiling, the trim the driving in coordination, it is sort of like flying a helicopter to a plane. There's so many things going on at once it's very, very challenging.
'At the end of the day I was really, myself, my mistake, that lead to dropping off the foil. Ultimately, yes, we sort of…I got out of sync on the foil with what Kyle and the guys were doing with the wing and just jumped off the foil.
'That really shows how tough these boats are to sail. Every single day you are at the red line. You're at the knife edge and you're putting yourself and your teammates right there with you. And there's no other way to sail. The boat only has…its either stop or full throttle. There's no in between. There's no sort of cruise mode. Every day you'd have a couple of these moments. It's I guess sort of like race car drivers who are right at the end from sliding into the wall. That's part of these boats. Very rewarding when you get them right but look it just goes to show if you make a mistake on a boat like this, you get punished and it's obvious. There's no hiding it you know, like did anyone see that?'
We saw it.
I figured you guys might. We could actually hear people on the shore there letting out a bit of a gasp.
by ISAF - 4:51 PM Sat 11 Jan 2014 GMT
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