Spithill Leads Team USA to First SailGP France Regatta Victory

Jimmy Spithill steered Team USA to their first victory in three SailGP seasons by beating rivals Peter Burling of New Zealand and Sir Ben Ainslie of Great Britain in a tense light-air podium race on Sunday at the Grand Prix of France Sail in Saint-Tropez.

It was a big rebound for the Americans, who had finished no higher than fifth in the previous four regattas this season, including a disappointing eighth in the nine-boat fleet in local waters in Chicago in June.

“It’s a long time coming and it’s fantastic,” said two-time America’s Cup champion Spithill. “It’s a sign of strength for the team to be out yesterday then today in completely different conditions. It’s a complete team effort — from the shore crew, our coach Philippe Presti and of course the athletes. Everyone did an amazing job.

The Americans won their first Champagne celebration in tech mogul Larry Ellison’s World League by staying ahead of their rivals in winds so light the 50ft catamarans struggled to get up on their foils.

“It’s really intense,” Spithill said. “Being in the lead is very difficult. We don’t know where to go and things are changing so fast.

It was a stark change from the high winds of Saturday’s three-fleet race, when Spithill had a second and two-thirds aboard his blue-hulled cat with an image of the Statue of Liberty on the wing sail. The Americans earned their first fleet win of the season in Sunday’s opener. Race five in the fleet was abandoned after no boat crossed the finish line within the 14-minute race window and race six was cancelled.

Spithill made a costly mistake when he hit the French boat in race five, taking a four-point penalty against their season points total. Although this run expired and did not count, the penalty stands. The Americans remained seventh overall after five races. They are nine points from the podium with six races to go.

“My mistake, we cut off the back of the French boat,” said Spithill, an Australian who lives in San Diego with his American wife and two sons. “We were stuck at the bottom gate and didn’t have much direction. It wasn’t on purpose, nor dangerous. Look, if the boats touch, someone will lose points, and yes, we were wrong.

Spithill took over as American skipper at the start of Season 2. He took the Americans to the $1million Grand Final, win-win in March in San Francisco, finishing third behind Australian Tom Slingsby and the Japanese Nathan Outteridge.

But the Americans have struggled after making a few crew changes at the start of this season.

“Listen, there’s been a lot of noise and stories about the team and the changes we’ve made this season,” Spithill said. “I’m just really proud that we didn’t let it affect us and focused on getting out there and going race by race. It’s a great overall result for the team and the result of hard work. We knew we would get there. »

Spithill ended Burling’s two-game winning streak. The Kiwis have grown strong after struggling in Season 2. Burling’s Emirates New Zealand team successfully defended the America’s Cup in March 2021 against Spithill’s Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team.

Australia’s Slingsby team, two-time defending SailGP champions, missed out on the podium for the second consecutive regatta and lead New Zealand by one point in the season standings, with Great Britain seven points higher .

The next regatta will take place on September 24 and 25 in Cadiz, Spain.

“The whole team has a lot of confidence coming out of this event,” Spithill said. “Bring Cadiz and let’s go.”

Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

Comments are closed.