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SailGP: UFO ends Spithill's chances of Final win in Taranto

by Matt Knighton, USSailGP Team 7 Jun 05:56 PDT 7 June 2021
USA SailGP Team helmed by Jimmy Spithill breaks down during the three-way match race final on Race Day 2 at the Italy SailGP, Event 2, Season 2 in Taranto, Italy. 06 June © Bob Martin / SailGP

The United States SailGP Team’s bid to win the Italy Sail Grand Prix in Taranto ended today in dramatic fashion when on the penultimate leg of the final race the team’s F50 catamaran struck an unidentified, submerged object.

The team was comfortably leading the Italy Sail Grand Prix final podium race, in sight of the finish line, at the time of the incident.

“Extremely tough way to end it,” said U.S. SailGP Team Driver Jimmy Spithill. “We were really sailing a perfect race and all we had to do was round the mark and head to the finish. Now I know how a Formula 1 driver feels when you have two corners to go and you have an engine fail.”

The object was not identified but hit with enough impact to break the top of the F50’s carbon fiber wing-tipped rudder as the team raced towards the final bottom mark of the course.

Video review of the incident revealed that the rudder shaft, though already broken, held together until the team went around the mark where it separated causing the race boat to abruptly leap into the air before slowing to a crawl, forcing the Americans to retire from racing.

SailGP’s on-water Marine Mammal Observation team went back to the area and after an extensive search found no evidence that marine mammals were involved in the incident.

“Some things are just out of your control,” said Spithill “You can’t control having a significant impact under the water. These things will happen.”

The unfortunate result left fans in shock after a standout event from the U.S. SailGP Team, who won two races and guaranteed their place in the final podium race before the end of qualifying.

Prior to the incident, the team had won the start of the three-team final race and extended its lead around the racecourse, averaging approximately 10kp/h faster than rivals Japan and Spain who also qualified for the Finals.

Spithill added: “The team needs to keep their heads up because, obviously, it was great to respond and bounce back after what happened in Bermuda and we had put ourselves in a position to win.”

The team now looks ahead to the next race on the SailGP Season 2 calendar, the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix in Plymouth, UK, July 17-18.

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