SailGP Team USA’s Big Stakes in San Francisco March 26-27
The prize money in this year’s SailGP Finale March 26-27 is jaw dropping: $1 million dollars to the winning team. The venue is iconic. Big winds. Big crowds. Big stakes. The best sailors in the world going head-to-head in identical foiling 50-foot catamarans. Just the kind of challenge and level of excitement that SailGP Team USA CEO and helmsman Jimmy Spithill lives for.
“We’re going to pull out all the stops in that final race,” he says. “Winning that million bucks would be great. The team deserves the payout. This year has been a wild ride. Capsizes. Crashes. Broken bones. We are a bit of an underdog. I like that position. Stay tuned.”
Spithill spoke to SpinSheet by phone two months before the finals were to begin. He was forthcoming with his SailGP thoughts having just secured a berth in the finals with a strong second-place finish in the just completed Sydney, Australia, event.
Slingsby and company won that event, their fourth in the high-powered 2021-22 SailGP circuit. “He’s a tough one to beat,” said Spithill. “But we’ve been at a disadvantage all year. We’ve raced conservatively all year. Never could really press the other teams. After our disastrous start where Japan took us out, we could not afford to make any mistakes. Now, we can race to win and go after Tom and whoever else is in the finals like there is no tomorrow.”
The format in San Francisco will consist of five fleet races, the winner of which will join the American and Australian boats in the winner take all one race final, now called the Mubadala United States Sail Grand Prix (following a recent partnership with Mubadala Investment Company). Team Australia took home the money in Season One. This year, both the Australian and United States boats will race in the fleet races, but barring disaster, their places in the finals are assured. Odds are that the Japanese boat helmed by fellow Australian Nathan Outteridge or the Spanish boat helmed by New Zealander Phil Robertson will make up the threesome in the final race.
Two-time America’s Cup winning skipper Spithill reckons a victory in this year’s finale will put a capstone on his already stellar career: “The winner of the SailGP finale will be the team that are the best sailors. All the boats are the same. We share data before and even during the races. Our crews even have to weigh the same. The advantage one team has over another isn’t the equipment. As opposed to the America’s Cup where, generally, the fastest boat wins, in SailGP the winner is the team that puts the best six sailors onboard.”
At press time, Spithill affirmed his desire to stay with the team and retain most if not all of the team members for Season 3 which begins in Bermuda May 14-15.
“SailGP has evolved in a very short period into an international success with an ever-increasing list of event hosts and new teams being added every year,” said Spithill. “We have a regular season. People can plan around the events and show up every six weeks or so for a weekend of racing. That said, there is an opportunity pathway for young sailors to find a position on one of these boats down the road.”
So just how much pressure is on Spithill and his team as they head to the line in the million-dollar finale? “I won’t tell you it will be just another race. The difference between this race and others we’ve had over the previous SailGP events is that this time, there is no second-place finish. It’s all or nothing. We will be super aggressive and hope for a good start. If Slingsby gets cute at the start, we’ll have to react in a split second. These races are short. Win the start, and chances are good you’ll win the race.”
The Italians have nicknamed Spithill the Pitbull for his tenacity at the starting line. After watching him in person both at the America’s Cup in Auckland, New Zealand, and in previous SailGP events this year, your reporter would also add “Iceman” to his sobriquets. It will take someone with ice in their veins to win the million-dollar prize in San Francisco.
Catch all the action by going to sailgp.com/watch.
By Craig Ligibel