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America's Cup: Spithill says simulator was a big point of difference in last Cup

by Dave Reed/Sailing World 6 May 2020 23:27 PDT 7 May 2020
Despite the sophistication of the AC75 and shore simulators - sailing karate still is a basic performance conversation tool - Jimmy Spithill, Luna Rossa. © Carlo Borlenghi / Luna Rossa

Leading sailing journalist Dave Reed of prestigious US sailing magazine, Sailing World spoke with twice America's Cup champion, Jimmy Spithill now with Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli in mid-January.

In a wide ranging interview Spithill talks of the comparison between the AC75 and the AC50 used in the previous America's Cup and also reflects on what could have been in the 2017 America's Cup in Bermuda.

“Personally, I didn’t go with my instincts, on or off the water enough, and we made key decisions early on in the campaign that effected the end result,” he told Sailing World.

He also rues not having a simulator in the Oracle Team USA campaign.

The simulator, one of which every team has, is a game-changer for this Cup cycle, Spithill says. Emirates Team New Zealand was the only syndicate to employ one in the previous Cup, and several Team New Zealand engineers involved with its development are now in the Italian camp. “We can go through a lot of the sailing data and that sort of thing with it,” Spithill says. “Whether we’re down because we’re doing a modification to the boat or because of the weather, we can keep going, to test the software out or try different appendages and setups. The most powerful thing with the simulator is the ability to get results much quicker than in the past and make sure the behavior of the boat in the simulator is as close to replicating what’s actually happening on the water when we’re sailing.”

There’s a tremendous ­efficiency to the simulator as well. He says: “In the past, you look at just how much time, money and effort goes into getting on the water and sailing in the America’s Cup. It’s no different this time; we need a crane, a heap of people, chase boats. It’s a huge operation, and by the time you get out there, you may get only a few hours of quality sailing. In the simulator, we go until we’re brain-dead. If you make a mistake on the water, you lose so much, but on the simulator, we can just stop and do it again, setting up different scenarios.”

He recalls the first time he walked into the team’s simulator and left feeling sick. Not because of the motions of the platform and the realness of it, but because he “realized how far behind the rest of us were by not having this tool last campaign, and instantly regretted not pushing harder to develop one then.”

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